TALKS with senior monks failed to secure the surrender of Phra Dhammachayo, the abbot of Dhammakaya Temple, as he claimed to be sick, PM’s Office Minister Suwapan Tanyuwattana said yesterday.
Suwapan said he had briefed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on the result of the talks and the PM had assigned him to work with Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya to proceed in accordance with the law.
Suwapan said his discussions early this week with Somdet Phrabuddhachinnawong, Central Monastic Sector chief monk and Wat Phichaiyatikaram abbot, and Monastic Region 1 chief monk Phra Rajasutthivethi on the guidelines to bring the controversial abbot and his temple to face the justice process ended with the conclusion that Phra Dhammachayo was not ready to surrender because of illness.
However, Phra Dhammachayo was ready to cooperate in providing information to the Department of Special Investigation, he said.
Suwapan also said Phra Dhammachayo’s decision not to turn himself in to the DSI was unlikely to be related to the public prosecutors’ deferment of a decision on the abbot and other alleged accomplices in a scandal over money-laundering and ill-gotten gains pending more investigation.
He said he believed the gathering announced by Buddhism Protection Centre secretary-general Phra Methee Dhammacharn was merely a meeting of monks.
Suwapan also met yesterday with officials of the National Office of Buddhism on policies for religious reform and temple land issues during the last quarter of this fiscal year.
After that meeting, Suwapan told reporters he had talked with Paiboon and affirmed that the criminal case would follow the course of justice, while Suwapan would continue his discussions with senior monks for solutions even during the Buddhist Lent period.
He said he didn’t know if the DSI would conduct another search at the temple. “If Phra Dhammachayo steps forward to hear the charges and follows legal procedures, it will be good for all sides. The government will proceed with this, as we cannot avoid following the law.”
He added that the arrest of Phra Dhammachayo and detention in a prison could not be done immediately, as he would first have to leave the monkhood.
Meanwhile, Pathum Thani’s Klong Luang police superintendent Pol Colonel Khemapat Phothipithak yesterday warned people against obstructing officials from performing their duties if the DSI led a team to search Dhammakaya Temple for the second time.
He said there were many cases involving the temple that were being investigated and these could be divided into three groups: four cases brought by outspoken monk Luang Pu Buddha Isara, 11 cases brought by temple disciples, and 10 cases from the DSI’s previous attempt to search the temple on July 5.
He said progress had been made in seven cases stemming from the July 5 DSI raid for blocking a public way and the suspects had been fined for the offence, he said.