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Wat, who and why? Thai PM wants to bring monk Dhammajayo to justice.

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Wat, who and why? Thai PM wants to bring monk Dhammajayo to justice. | The Thaiger
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Government opposition MPs are questioning the motives of the Thai PM to take over the reigns of the Department of Special Investigations. Some say it’s retribution for failing to being to justice the fugitive monk, and spiritual leader of the Wat (Temple) Phra Dhammakaya, Luang Por Dhammajayo.

At least one advocate of the fugitive monk Dhammakaya is a government MP, and the opposition is apparently “crawling with supporters” of the controversial Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Many others consider the temple a cult and little to do with real Buddhism.

To add to that, a key suspect in the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement scandal is the fugitive former abbot Luang Por Dhammajayo who remains immensely popular but has evaded attempts to question or arrest him since charges were brought against him. His supporters say he vows to face justice if and when when Thailand returns to civil rule.

Wat Dhammakaya is situated north of Bangkok in Pathum Thani and resembles a Disney space exhibit more than a traditional Buddhist temple.

A bit of background…

In 2015 the temple was implicated in the Klongchan Credit Union controversy when 11.37 billion baht was taken out of the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative using dodgy cheques – some of those involved a billion baht given to the Wat Phra Dhammakaya as “donations”. Temple elders claim that Luang Por Dhammajayo was unaware that the donations were obtained illegally.

The Temple tried to settle the situation by negotiating directly with the credit union. But the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) summoned Luang Por Dhammajayo to acknowledge charges of fraud and conspiring to launder money at their Bangkok offices.

The temple requested the DSI to let him acknowledge his charges at the temple due to his deep vein thrombosis, a request refused by the DSI. When Luang Por Dhammajayo failed to appear at the DSI office to acknowledge his charges authorities launched several failed raids of the temple to search for the head abbot and laid hundreds of additional charges on the temple.

Wat, who and why? Thai PM wants to bring monk Dhammajayo to justice. | News by The Thaiger

Luang Por Dhammajayo, the elusive head abbot of the controversial Wat Phra Dhammakaya

The ugly standoff between the saffron-robed monks and security authorities was the only major demonstration against the Thai junta since the coup in 2014.

The temple was in full lock down for 23 days in 2017 on orders from the junta using Article 44. The NCPO copped plenty of criticism during the time over their handling of the case. On December 20, 2017, Thai authorities emerged from the temple, empty handed. Luang Por Dhammajayo had, somehow, alluded authorities despite his alleged illnesses.

But the lawsuits are still in play.

Cut to 2019 with a new government and the PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, still smarting over the entire incident – and the loss of face – has made himself ‘overseer’ of the DSI, allegedly to supervise future actions against the wayward temple and the fugitive monk.

That is being denied, but speculation about Prayut’s motives persist.

Analysts foresee a prolonged and heavily-politicised legal saga, in which Dhammachayo could eventually resurface to be granted bail. Others suggest negotiations have been in play since the Junta’s failed mission to extract him from the temple.

Meanwhile, the temple’s current efforts to ordain 5,000 monks in the next few days are seen by some as a strictly religious affair and others as a strategic move aimed at making the authorities think twice before taking any drastic steps to avoid another messy protest and barricading of the temple by monks – a bad look in international media.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin is denying speculation that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to take charge of the DSI by himself because he “wanted to speed up certain cases such as the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative scandal”.

Somsak says Prayut only wanted to coordinate between the police and military on national security matters and would not interfere with any on-going case.

For now, the former Dhammakaya Temple abbot, Dhammachayo, remains elusive, probably overseas.

The unorthodox temple, often associated with “certain leading politicians” on the opposite side of Prayut, according to Thai PBS, is being forced to deny involvement in the cooperative embezzlement case.

Wat, who and why? Thai PM wants to bring monk Dhammajayo to justice. | News by The Thaiger

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Crime

Man arrested for growing 108 cannabis plants in Samut Prakan

Caitlin Ashworth

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Man arrested for growing 108 cannabis plants in Samut Prakan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: 77kaoded

Police arrested an Argentinian man for growing cannabis at his house in Samut Prakan, just southeast of Bangkok. 35 year old Sagas Nur told police he planned to produce cannabis oil.

Medical marijuana is legalised – with limitations – while recreational marijuana is still classified as a category 5 narcotic. Sagas is facing charges of producing a category 5 narcotic. He could face 2 to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 1,500,000 baht.

Police were tipped off about Sagas’ alleged growing operation. They searched the house and say they found 108 cannabis plants that were about 1.5 metre high. Sagas allegedly told police he bought the seeds online with the intention to grow plants and then produce cannabis oil.

Thailand legalised medical marijuana in 2018, becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to do so. Recreational marijuana trafficking and operations continue to be busted by police while the government studies medical marijuana with plans to tap into the global market. The Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul even helped plant cannabis seedlings at a government-run facility with 1,300 plants.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | South China Morning Post

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Protests

Opposition MPs petition for Bangkok State of Emergency to be lifted

Maya Taylor

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Opposition MPs petition for Bangkok State of Emergency to be lifted | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.nandy0140.com

A group of opposition MPs and other activists will today petition to have the emergency decree currently in force in Bangkok revoked. Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha imposed the state of emergency last Thursday morning, in the wake of escalating political unrest in the capital. Now a number of Pheu Thai MPs and other opponents of the State of Emergency are calling on the Civil Court to retract it.

Last weeks declaration was “rubber stamped” the next day by an emergency meeting of the Thai cabinet.

One of those petitioning for the state of emergency to be rescinded, is the President of the Lawyers’ Association of Thailand, Narinphong Jinaphak. He says enforcement of the decree is illegal and that there is nothing to justify it, pointing out that political rallies have been peaceful, and protesters have acted within the confines of the law. He also points out that the Thai Constitution guarantees citizens the right to assemble.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that Cholnan Srikaew, Pheu Thai MP for the northern province of Nan, has described the PM’s announcement of the State of Emergency in the early hours of last Thursday as illegitimate. He adds that should the court decide the state of emergency is unlawful, the group may sue the government for having declared it.

The group is also petitioning for an interim injunction, to prevent authorities from using the emergency decree against protesters, while the court considers whether to revoke it altogether.

Meanwhile, national police chief, Suwat Jangyodsuk, says officers are still under orders to avoid the use of force when dealing with protesters, in order to protect them and the general public. He denies that water cannons used to disperse a protest in Bangkok on Friday contained chemical substances known to cause irritation.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Visa

41 foreign tourists to arrive in Bangkok today on Special Tourist Visa after 7 month ban

Caitlin Ashworth

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41 foreign tourists to arrive in Bangkok today on Special Tourist Visa after 7 month ban | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Patrick Tomasso

Just 41 foreign tourists are expected to arrive in Bangkok today, a small, yet major step forward after a 7 month ban on international tourists which was put in place in late-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The visitors are said to be travelling on the new Special Tourist Visa, which allows a 90 day stay that can be renewed twice, adding up to about 9 months. But the tourists departing from Shanghai, China and arriving in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport this evening will only be in Thailand for 30 days, and that includes a 14 day quarantine, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn says.

Plans under the new scheme have been sketchy to say the least and reports have been conflicting. Reports circulated about a group of about 120 to 150 tourists under the new visa scheduled to arrive in Phuket earlier this month from Guangzhou, China. The flight was delayed. A few days later, a spokesperson from the Foreign Ministry announced no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and TAT just passed off a list of those “interested” in the scheme rather than those who were ready to fly.

Things seem a bit sketchy again. The flight arriving today was at first going to have 120 to 150 tourists, but now it’s down to 41, according to Pattaya News. Yuthasak did not say why only a limited number of tourists are arriving today, but says Bangkok’s ongoing protests are not a factor, adding that the tourists plan to travel to beaches outside the city once the mandatory quarantine period is over. He says 100 more Chinese tourists will arrive in Bangkok later this week.

Upon arrival, the tourists will be tested for Covid-19 and are required to register with a Covid-19 tracking application. They will then be transferred to certified quarantine accommodations to stay for the next 14 days.

“If the first batch of Chinese tourists is considered to be potentially successful, TAT might propose the idea of increasing more tourists to the CCSA (Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration) and the government.”

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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