Thai cops left red-faced as wanted monk slips away

Abbot Phra Dhammachayo (centre) spirited away

An elderly monk wanted for massive fraud may have escaped a three-week siege of his temple, Thai cops admitted, thwarting a much-trumped dragnet ordered by the kingdom’s junta.

On Feb 16 the Thai junta invoked special powers to seal off the 1,000-acre grounds of the Wat Dhamma­kaya temple on the outskirts of Bangkok.

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Read – Thai authorities end 23-day siege of Dhammakaya, nation’s largest temple

Since then thousands of police officers have laid siege to the temple in a bid to arrest 72-year-old monk Phra Dhammachayo, who was believed to be holed-up inside.

The former abbot, who founded the breakaway Buddhist order in 1970 and steered its rise to riches, is accused of money laundering and accepting embezzled funds worth US$33mil (RM145.9mil) from the jailed boss of a cooperative bank.

The monk’s followers say he is innocent and deny any knowledge of his whereabouts, instead accu­sing the junta of a witchhunt against a popular Buddhist institution.

The monk’s disappearing act has transfixed the Thai public, raising questions of religion and politics and leaving Thailand’s military ru­­lers struggling to explain the challenge to their authority.

— AFP

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