BANGKOK — Investigators Friday filed obstruction of justice charges against disciples of a Buddhist sect for preventing them from arresting its fugitive abbot.
Apart from the charge, which named no individuals, the Department of Special Investigation showed no other sign of resuming its effort to arrest the leader of Wat Dhammakaya, who is wanted for receiving millions in embezzled funds, after its failed Thursday operation.
Police entered the temple complex north of Bangkok early Thursday to arrest abbot Dhammachayo but turned back when they found his office blocked by his supporters. Deputy national police chief Sriwarah Rangsipramkul said those lay supporters will be prosecuted for obstructing the officers.
“The DSI has already filed charges against those who obstructed the officers, and we have started sending photographs and videos to officers in charge of the investigation,” Gen. Sriwarah said. “We will summon them for questioning and prosecution in the future.”
The DSI said Dhammachayo, 72, received checks worth 1.2 billion baht as donations from Supachai Srisupa-suksorn, who is now jailed for embezzling 11 billion baht from the credit union he once headed.
For receiving the checks, DSI charged Dhammachayo with being party to embezzlement and money laundering, but the abbot’s aides insist he was not aware the donations were tainted.
Dhammachayo has repeatedly refused to surrender himself, saying he was too ill. He refused to appear as ordered on May 26 after a court approved a warrant for his arrest.
Despite their failure to arrest Dhammachayo, Gen. Sriwarah said he was satisfied with the operation because there was no violence. He also said Immigration Police have been notified not to allow Dhammachayo to leave the country.
Police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen said he’s not aware of any plans to re-enter the temple.
“At this time, we have not yet received any request for conducting a second search from DSI,” Col. Krissana said today.
Police have been visibly reluctant to take action against Dhammachayo, who is regarded as a mystical saint by a sect which boasts numerous supporters among the bureaucracy and the moneyed elite.