• Monks walk past signs placed by the National Office of Buddhism at Dhammakaya Temple

DSI set to summon 10 Dhammakaya protesters amid crackdown

national March 01, 2017 01:00

By Anan Wichitpracha,
Wasamon Audjarint
The Nation

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THE DEPARTMENT of Special Investigation (DSI) has enough evidence to summon 10 protesters, including monks and laymen, and has identified 20 individuals who helped with crowd mobilisation at Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang Market, DSI deputy chief Songsak Raksaksakul said yesterday.

After the DSI issued a warning urging people not to participate in the protest, the National Office of Buddhism placed signs in front of the temple discouraging monks, laymen and novices from protesting and obstructing officers as it was punishable by law. More signs, also in Thai, Chinese and English, were later placed at all gates of the temple.

The temple area has been declared a “controlled area” by a junta order issued under the absolute authority of Article 44, in the hunt for former abbot Phra Dhammachayo.

The temple, meanwhile, claims that Phra Dhammachayo only received 8 per cent of the Bt10 billion embezzled from the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC), and called on authorities to get the money from other parties.

As for an intelligence report that 700 people gathering at the market were planning to mobilise more people, DSI deputy chief Woranan Srilam said officers would implement strict measures, including getting leading protesters to report to the authorities. He said some 200 protesters were allegedly assigned to organise the protest while the rest of the people rotated as back up.

Signs discouraging gatherings were also placed at checkpoints near the market. Officers at the checkpoints also inspected the monks’ “Bai Sutthi” monastic identification cards to identify monks from outside the area and those from Dhammakaya to return to the temple via Gate 7.

DSI officer Phalangchat Meunkaew said 13 monks were found outside the temple yesterday. Four were sent back to Dhammakaya temple, while the remainder were banned from going to the market or the temple because they were registered elsewhere.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday insisted that Article 44 was needed to “solve problems at a fast pace” at the temple.

“Although officers have authority in their hands, the order is essential to facilitate their operations,” Prayut said at his weekly news briefing. “This is a fight between mob rule and law. I, too, want this to be solved fast.”

As well as Article 44, Prayut said officers “need cooperation”. “They [Dhammakaya Temple] should let [officers] inspect their people,” he said.

Prayut’s remarks came after Mahidol Unviersity’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) on Sunday urged the premier to cease the use of Article 44 as they said the process lacked checks-and-balances and did not follow the rule of law.

The IHRP’s statement came hours after a 64-year-old man hanged himself after calling the government to revoke the Article 44 order.

Prayut said yesterday that he has assigned the Foreign Ministry to communicate with foreign entities regarding the confrontation at the temple.

He said clarifications had been given to Myanmar, where a far-right monk Ashin Wirathu held campaigns in support of the temple and against Thai authority for “deteriorating” Buddhism in the Kingdom.

“Myanmar understands well that we did not use hard force in dealing with [the temple],” he said.


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