BANGKOK — A former monk accused of forging royal seals on his merchandise failed to appear for a court hearing Thursday on another set of charges related to the assault of police officers when he commanded anti-government street protests four years ago.
Suwit Thongprasert, better known as Buddha Issara, informed the court through his lawyer that he went to the hospital following his release from the Bangkok Remand Prison last night, where he was met by about 50 waiting supporters. The Criminal Court today agreed to reschedule the hearing for early October after his lawyer submitted documentation that he was hospitalized for a herniated disc that might require surgery.
Teerayuth Suwannakesorn, Suwit’s lawyer, said he was released on a 200,000-baht bond, and added that he intends to become a monk again.
Suwit, a polarizing figure who broke from the monkhood’s apolitical tradition by leading throngs of anti-government protesters to occupy ministries at the height of the so-called Bangkok Shutdown in 2014, was defrocked following his May arrest.
Among the many charges filed against him, Suwit yesterday was indicted for joining a group of security guards in assaulting and extorting two special branch police officers in February 2014 during the anti-government demonstrations. Both officers sustained serious injuries including broken ribs, a torn liver and broken teeth. They also lost personal possessions worth over 60,000 baht.
Prosecutors have yet to indict him on charges related to forging the late King Bhumibol’s royal insignia on amulets he sold. By not doing so, the court was forced to free him after he reached a statutory limit of 84 days of detention.
Suwit was dramatically arrested in a dawn raid on his temple in Nakhon Pathom province. He was charged with counts stemming from various years-old allegations, including extortion and theft of firearms. His arrest surprised many as he was known as a hardline supporter of the ruling junta which seized power following the 2014 protests.