A high-profile Thai Buddhist monk who is on the run from several charges filed against him, was given five days to surrender on Thursday before police will seek a warrant to search his temple.
Phra Dhammachayo is the abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, a temple about 50 kilometres north of Bangkok, that is the base of the powerful Dhammakaya Buddhist sect.
A court recently issued an arrest warrant after Dhammakaya’s 76-hectare World Peace Valley meditation complex in Nakhon Ratchasima province, three hours’ drive from Bangkok, was found to have encroached on a national forest.
Dhammachayo, 72, was also indicted on Wednesday for alleged money laundering of 1.4 billion baht (40 million dollars).
He has been summoned to appear in court on Nov. 30, along with four other suspects.
“The Department of Special Investigation is searching for two further suspects who have eluded capture,’’ police said.
A temple spokesman told newsmen that Dhammachayo had fallen ill and remained at his temple in the Pathumthani province, adding that he had no intention of escaping.
“There will not be a human shield,’’ the spokesman said, adding that a mass of sect followers who had gathered at the temple were there simply to pray, not to prevent the arrest.
The 1,000-acre, futuristic-looking temple is notorious for holding massive religious ceremonies with hundreds of thousands of participants and unorthodox Buddhist teachings.
The Dhammakaya sect is controversial for its massive wealth and political connections with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.