Fugitive Abbot Not Found in New Dhammakaya Raid

Dhammajayo speaks to his followers in a June 2, 2014 video. Image: DMC Channel / YouTube

BANGKOK — A nighttime raid on the Wat Dhammakaya complex hoping to nab the order’s former abbot came up empty-handed, the official in charge of the operation said Friday.

Dhammajayo, 73, was not found in his quarters despite intelligence reports claiming he was present, said Department of Special Investigation Deputy Director Suriya Singhakamol. The monk is on the run from more than 300 charges, including a multi-billion count of money laundering, which his supporters deny.

“We did our duty. Since we don’t have the suspect yet, we must search any potential target,” police Maj. Suriya said. “There were intelligence reports about his whereabouts.”

The raid took place Wednesday night, he said. Officers searched several buildings inside the sprawling temple grounds, including the bedroom that belonged to Dhammajayo before he disappeared.

“There was no trace of him,” Suriya said.

The charismatic monk is accused of accepting large donations of laundered money in 2016 and refusing summons to appear. He cited health issues at the time. His supporters also maintain Dhammajayo was unaware the donations were tainted and say the charges are politically motivated.

After months of inaction, the junta in February ordered security forces to surround and search the temple’s headquarters in northern metro Bangkok. The elusive monk was not found and the operation was called off after three weeks of confrontation, during which two people died.

In August, officials said Dhammajayo had likely fled the country. Suriya said his agency would continue to look for the fugitive monk.

“Domestically, we still listen to intel reports. Internationally, we have coordinated with Interpol,” Suriya said. “Our mission is not over yet. We have been working on it this whole time, but they aren’t newsworthy things.”

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Teeranai Charuvastra can be reached at teeranai@khaosodenglish.com and followed on Twitter at @teeranai_c. He began working for Khaosod newspaper in 2012 before switching to Khaosod English in late 2013. His interests include politics, crime, the monarchy and the latest Naga sightings.