Thailand: Prayut Chan-O-Cha orders raid on Wat Dhammakaya temple, 4,000 officers deployed

The raid has been ordered to arrested the temple's spiritual leader Phra Dhammachayo.

Wat Dhammakaya temple
Abbot Phra Dhammachayo leads a ceremony as Buddhist monks carry candles at the Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple Reuters

Thai police have ordered a complete lockdown on the controversial Buddhist temple, Wat Dhammakaya, in Bangkok as they prepare for a raid to arrest the temple's spiritual leader and put an end to the cat-and-mouse game that has been going on for months. The temple's former abbot, Phra Dhammachayo is being hunted down for his involvement in an illicit funds scandal worth 1.2 billion baht (S$47.7 million).

According to reports, the fund was given to Dhammachayo by a cooperative bank owner, who was jailed. Police have been trying to get hold of the monk, who is wanted on three arrest warrants, but was reluctant to raid the super-rich temple's space-age 1,000-acre compound as they were afraid that it would hurt the sentiment of the people. Moreover, police faced the wrath of the devotees when they came to arrest the 72-year-old monk earlier. According to reports, a huge crowd blocked the entrance to protect the leader, who was believed to be holed up inside.

Also read: Thailand orders Buddhist temple's TV channel off air as 72-year-old monk evades arrest

After Phra Dhammachayo maneuvered several deadlines for surrender, the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha ordered the sudden raid on Thursday by evoking Section 44, which puts the area under military control. "Authorities can prevent people entering the area, evict them ... demolish or destroy buildings," it said. Anyone who dares to obstruct efforts of the military will face one year in jail sentence and a fine, it added.

Hundreds of police and soldiers have been deployed at the site and they have locked down the streets leading to the gigantic temple. Images, which are being circulated on online, show unarmed police cordoning off the temple, which is currently holding thousands of sect supporters inside, reported Channel News Asia.

4,000 police and military with blockades have been deployed and they are "now prohibiting anyone from entering or leaving" said the temple in an emailed statement.

Other than the so-called dishonest monk, the temple is also accused of having close links to Prime MinisterThaksin Shinawatra, whose government was toppled by a military coup in 2006.

Last December, authorities ordered Thailand's national telecom regulator to suspend the 24-hour satellite TV channel of the temple.