Phra Dhammachayo set for defrocking today

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Monastic council likely to make decision on defrocking Phra Dhammachayo today

THE SANGHA Supreme Council (SSC) is expected to issue a resolution today regarding the controversial monk Phra Dhammachayo.

The honorary abbot of Dhammakaya Temple is facing charges of money laundering and accepting stolen items.

Although he has already been stripped of his high monastic rank, he has not been defrocked.

The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) yesterday submitted a complaint concerning Phra Dhammachayo to the National Buddhism Office (NBO), urging it to take action against the embattled monk.

“There is sufficient incriminating evidence against him,” said Pol Lt-Colonel Pakorn Suchiwakul, director of the financial and banking division of the DSI.

The controversial monk has refused to answer charges for more than a year, despite repeated summons and a warrant issued for his arrest.

Dhammakaya Temple has been declared a special controlled area after the invocation of Article 44 of the interim charter as authorities have stepped up efforts to apprehend Phra Dhammachayo.

Thousands of security officials are at the site on standby to carry out another search at the temple. Many people believe that if Phra Dhammachayo loses his status as a monk, he will also lose the trust of his followers, making it easier for authorities to take action against him.

Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had already dismissed a rumour that the DSI would launch a final operation to conclude the Dhammakaya case within five days. He quoted Prayut as saying the defrocking of Phra Dhammachayo would be in line with the Sangha Act.

In a related development, former actress and Pheu Thai Party politician Leelawadee Wachalobol yesterday led seven Dhammakaya supporters to file a complaint at the public service centre of the Prime Minister’s Office to ask Prayut to cancel the Article 44 order establishing the controlled area.

She tearfully said the order and the ongoing search operation were illegitimate, as a court-issued warrant had expired on February 28, and violated human rights. She added that temple disciples’ patience had a limit.

Surrender

Meanwhile, Dhammakaya spokesperson Phra Sanitwong Wuthiwangso yesterday morning surrendered to the Crime Suppression Division amid tight security provided by 150 police after an arrest warrant was issued against him for having allegedly incited violence, violated the computer crime act and defamed the DSI. He was released on bail.

Bail was granted on the condition that he would not obstruct officers’ duties, engage in incitement activities or leave the country without court permission.

Deputy national police Commissioner Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said the monk had denied the charges against him.

Srivara said the monk’s case would also be passed on to Pathum Thani police on a separate charge of violating the junta order that required him to present himself to the DSI earlier, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the Thanyaburi Provincial Court.

Sorawan Sirisuntarin, better known as “Auntie Cheng”, also turned herself in to face questioning at the Region 1 Border Patrol police bureau yesterday.

The woman in her late 70s, who was at the centre of a controversy over tonics and eye-drop products in 2010, was summoned to provide information about her reported permission for monks and supporters of Dhammakaya Temple to use her space in the Klong Luang Central Market to stage protests.

According to DSI Environmental Case Office chief Pol Lt-Colonel Prawut Wongsinil, Sorawan said she had let the market space be used for a merit-making event and did not know it had been used to stage protests.

The DSI told her that she must ask officers’ permission before letting out the market space, which is now part of the controlled area, Prawut said, adding that Sorawan, who had not been charged, told officers that she would fully cooperate with the DSI.

A LITANY OF LEGAL WOES

Actions against Phra Dhammachayo and his network

  • The Department of Special Investigation pursues a money-laundering case against him.
  • Police file more than 300 cases against Dhammakaya Temple.
  • The Anti-Money Laundering Office plans asset seizures related to his |money-laundering case.
  • The Office of the Ombudsman accuses Phra Dhammachayo of claiming to have attained a high level of Dhamma, a serious offence that if confirmed could lead to his defrocking.
  • The National Buddhism Office is set to ask the Sangha Supreme Council to decide on Phra Dhammachayo’s case.

Today: Sangha Supreme Council will probably decide on Phra Dhammachayo’s case.

-The Nation