Venerable Dhammajayo is now facing imminent arrest after the court issued an arrest warrant on May 18th, 2016. Temple officials representing the embattled Thai monk assert that the monk is not a flight risk and will remain at the temple.
Venerable Dhammajayo, the 72-year-old abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya—Thailand’s largest Buddhist temple—is being accused of money laundering and receiving stolen property. 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.
Venerable Dhammajayo’s supporters raised the equivalent amount of money for the credit union once it was discovered that the donation was linked to the allegations. The credit union dropped all civil charges against the temple in response and issued a letter of appreciation to the supporters. Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) continues to pursue criminal action against Venerable Dhammajayo.
Temple officials state the illicit checks were handled by the temple finance department, not the abbot, and that the abbot did not know the source of the checks since they were received in the open public among a crowd of thousands of donors.
The warrant was issued after the abbot failed to appear for a summons on May 16th, 2016. The temple had sent representatives to DSI two days earlier to request a location change from DSI to the temple’s special care unit due to complications from the abbot’s chronic medical illnesses. His condition was confirmed by a panel of doctors, who prescribed him rest and abstention from long-distance travel. The temple also invited DSI to send their own physicians to verify his condition. DSI did not respond to the request and sought an arrest warrant when the abbot failed to appear for the summons.The warrant was granted by the court and DSI gave the ailing abbot until May 26th, 2016 to turn himself in—or face arrest.
On May 22nd, 2016, Wat Phra Dhammakaya responded to DSI’s refusal by allowing members of the media to see the abbot’s condition for themselves from a monitor broadcasting live footage from just outside the abbot’s special care unit. The temple spokesperson held up copies of the day’s newspaper in front of a video camera to affirm the date of the visit and quell any rumors that the temple was releasing previously taken footage.
In addition, the temple brought in medical specialists from Germany to examine his condition. The German specialists released a statement confirming the diagnosis by the panel of Thai doctors previously issued.
The actions of DSI have prompted the supporters to contact numerous human rights organizations about the case. Recently, a petition to the White House was started in an attempt to spread awareness of this case in the United States. Freedom Watch International was also formed as a result of the case, and has made a plea for the Dhammakaya abbot to be treated fairly.