Search for fugitive monk switches to border

Cops raid suspected former hideout

A DSI official collects two long-sleeve T-shirts for examination. The shirts are similar to the ones worn by Phra Dhammajayo. (All photos courtesy DSI)

Immigration officials are keeping an eye out for Wat Phra Dhammakaya's former abbot Phra Dhammajayo whose whereabouts remain unknown after the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) failed to find him in the temple complex during a 23-day siege.

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn Prousoontorn, commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, said staff are monitoring all checkpoints and so far have found no sign of the elusive monk.

He said the bureau's screening system is efficient enough that the monk would not be able to elude immigration officials unless he has slipped through the border via informal passes.

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said the bureau is also working with its counterparts in other countries and Interpol in looking out for the controversial monk who has warrants against him for his arrest.

He said the immigration officials are also asking other agencies to be watchful as he may choose to sneak across the border through natural border passes.

He noted Thailand and its neighbouring countries have extradition agreements and Thai officials can request that those countries hand over the monk to face charges if he slips out of Thailand.

A DSI team conducts one last search of the 'Aram Parisutho' facility near Wat Phra Dhammakaya, and suspected of being a hideout of the fugitive monk

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said the bureau is also monitoring other people linked to the controversial temple who had been served with arrest warrants but have since reported to officials.

Meanwhile, DSI officials, armed with a search warrant, searched a building Sunday in Pathum Thani's Khlong Luang district suspected to be a possible hideout of Phra Dhammajayo.

The officials, however, did not find the monk at "Aram Parisutho", located in tambon Khlong Sam, but confiscated a number of documents from a bedroom on the second floor and two long-sleeve yellow T-shirts similar to those worn by the monk.

The building, which is about two kilometres from Gates 1 and 4 of Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple, is believed to serve as a meeting venue.

Witnesses told the DSI there appeared to be unusual activity recently in the building, with several monks coming and going.

It was also found to have elaborate security including surveillance cameras installed.

The search was carried out with a warrant approved by the Thanyaburi Court as the facility belongs to a private individual and is located outside the "controlled area" under Section 44 of the interim charter.

According to the DSI, people who look after the building insisted no monks with arrest warrants against them had stayed there.

Wat Phra Dhammakaya's communications team told the media via a Line group chat they would not be allowed to enter the compound for the time being to help maintain order.

The team said the temple complex would be off-limits from noon Sunday until further notice.

DSI men check a security monitor at 'Aram Parisutho' near the temple grounds.

Mano Laohavanich, a former monk of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, said that the DSI did its best, after the department came under heavy fire for ending the search empty-handed.

He said that officials must have evaluated the situation thoroughly before making the decision, adding they might be concerned about a violent confrontation.

Mr Mano, however, cast doubts over the DSI's decision not to summon the owner of Boon Raksa building for questioning.

He said the building belongs to an individual, not the temple, and its owner should be questioned in connection with the case.


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