Monks nabbed smuggling migrants

Tak immigration police have arrested two monks reportedly from the controversial Wat Phra Dhammakaya sect for allegedly smuggling 30 illegal immigrants into Thailand.

The monks, Phra Surapol Boonsripanich, 53, and Phra Surasak Wongduangpa, 48, were travelling in two vans on the Tak-Mae Sot Road in tambon Mae Pa of Mae Sot district early Tuesday morning when a combined immigration police-military task force stopped their vehicles. 

The team was acting on a tip-off that a gang would try to smuggle Karen and Myanmar illegal immigrants from the Thai-Myanmar border in Mae Sot to Bangkok and that they would be accompanied by Buddhist monks. 

An inspection of the vans, each carrying an emblem of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, found a total of 30 Myanmar and Karen nationals on board, 12 males and 18 females — all dressed in white clothing as Dhamma practitioners. The group was taken to Tak immigration office for questioning after they failed to show entry documents. 

The van drivers were identified as Sawang Promdee, 51, and Spornchai Khankang. 

Phra Surapol and Phra Surasak told police they were taking the Karen and Myanmarese to practice Dhamma and meditation at Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Khlong Luang district of Pathum Thani.

Police charged them with helping aliens enter the kingdom illegally and avoid arrest. 

Wat Phra Dhammakaya has been embroiled in controversy over its donation campaigns and claims of miracles. Abbot Phra Dhammajayo is a controversial figure who was once charged with embezzling donated funds, but the public prosecution later dropped the charge against him.

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