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DSI to Send 2,200 Troops to Arrest Dhammakaya Abbot

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Freedom Watch International releases latest updates on the ongoing case with Venerable Dhammajayo. Venerable Dhammajayo, or Phrathepyanmahamuni–the abbot of the largest temple in Thailand–is in the middle of a highly contested case where he is accused of money laundering and receiving stolen property.

Throughout 2009-2011, Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, the former Chairman of Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC), made donations to the temple in the form of checks and was investigated for alleged embezzlement of funds, in which a portion were traced to his donations to the temple. The abbot states he did not know the source of the donations because they were received openly in public.

Dhammakaya supporters raised the equivalent amount of money for the credit union once it was discovered that the donations were linked to the allegations. The credit union dropped all charges against the temple in response and issued a letter of appreciation to the supporters. Despite this, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) continues to pursue criminal action against Venerable Dhammajayo.

Tension over the contested case heightened on May 17th, 2016 when an arrest warrant was issued after the abbot failed to appear for a summons. The temple did however send representatives to request that the location of the meeting be moved to the temple’s medical ward due to complications from the abbot’s medical conditions. His health condition was confirmed by a panel of doctors. DSI ignored the request and sought an arrest warrant when the abbot failed to appear.

The decision not to question the abbot at the temple sparked protests by Dhammakaya supporters, who have been protesting the case since its inception. One US supporter, who identified as Nora Lawrence, has called DSI’s handling of the investigation a “farce”, and has spoken out about DSI’s refusal to question the ailing abbot at the temple. “I have seen responses from cops, from lawyers, there is no reason DSI can’t question Luang Por (Ven. Dhammajayo) at the Wat (temple). Cops ask questions to suspects in the streets, in their homes, often times in hospitals too. There is no difference between Luang Por’s request and what law enforcements usually do,” Lawrence tells Freedom Watch International.

After DSI received the arrest warrant, which took 5 hours of deliberation before being granted, they declared the abbot had until May 26th, 2016 to turn himself in or face arrest. After negotiation, the temple agreed the abbot would meet DSI at Klong Luang police station on May 26th to hear the charges in an ambulance. In return, DSI would grant the abbot bail. The reason for this was because doctors advised against Venerable Dhammajayo travelling all the way to the DSI office in Bangkok, as travelling such a long distance would put him at risk for a fatal blood clot

Venerable Dhammajayo’s lawyer had stated that the abbot would appear at 2:30 pm to hear the charges. The abbot suffered severe dizziness as he was making his way from his hospital bed to the ambulance, and the lawyer requested another 30 minutes for him to appear. He later fainted trying to travel to the police station and, thus, was unable to make an appearance.

This resulted in a plan to arrest the abbot. Justice Minister Pai­boon Koomchaya revealed that DSI had a careful plan for the abbot’s arrest:

The department will send a letter to the Supreme Sangha Council in an effort to involve the governing monks in resolving the issue. The department will ask the deputy abbot of Dhammakaya to act as an intermediary between DSI and the ailing abbot. DSI plans on cutting off water and electricity to the temple so that followers inside would eventually be forced to vacate. Once a sizable amount of followers leave the temple, DSI has 2,200 police and military personnel ready to enter the temple in search for the abbot.

The Temple spokesperson has stated the followers of the temple currently on the premises are there only to practice meditation. Supporters have stated they stand against the violation of human rights taking place at the temple but will not obstruct any attempt by DSI to arrest the abbot.

A series of other events have occurred since that time. On May 28th, DSI used a drone and police helicopters disguised as a channel 7 chopper to survey routes in and around Dhammakaya Temple as part of the plan to arrest the abbot.

On May 29th, 2016 Weerasak Hadda, Chairman of Tambon Klong Sam Administ­rative Organization invited 150 villagers from his sub-district to a papaya salad party at the entrance to the temple’s main chapel. These supporters say they are not followers but state they stand behind the abbot in gratitude.

“We are here because we are thankful for the temple’s help during the 2011 floods,” said villager Wassana Cheeva-osot. She said the temple provided relief supplies to her village every day until the flood waters receded.

“So, we cannot stand idly by. From what we see in the media, we feel Phra Dhammajayo and his temple are not being treated fairly.”

Locals also brought banners in support of Ven. Dham­ma­jayo and named the foods in support of the abbot. One somtam item was called “Somtam of Gratitude” while a noodle item was nicknamed “Noodle of Temple Love”.

Wassana admitted that villagers who were sympathetic to Dhammajayo parked construction trucks in front of a temple gate to prevent an unwanted third party from entering.

The temple has since filed an appeal for the current arrest warrant to be rescinded and has submitted a request to the Medical Council of Thailand to send doctors to verify Venerable Dhammajayo’s condition.

DSI officials have been running periodic checks on the temple entrances to monitor movement in and out of the temple since May 26th, 2016.

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  • Niralayo Tusita - June 1, 2016 reply

    DSI’s performance in this case is unusual. It seems to have a hidden agenda, targeting to arrest the abbot, rather than seeking to follow normal & fair process. His human right is violently obliterated. This raises suspicion against DSI and greatly weakens people’s confidence in Thai juridical process. Thai people fear that such injustice may also fall on them one day.

  • Matthew - June 1, 2016 reply

    #ThaiJunta doesn’t understand justice! Thailand officials (DSI) use an opposition of a defendant as a consultant. During the investigation in the “accepting donation as stolen property” charge against #VenDhammajayo who has been working for 42 years to spread nonviolent teaching around the world, DSI invited Dr. Mano who used to be ordained at the temple but was dismissed for disciplinary action, to attend the investigation. He is well-known for expressing opinions against the temple on public TV. This clearly shows that DSI is biased and is unjustified to investigate this case.

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