The search for the elusive former abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya has shifted to the medical equipment found on the premises of the locked-down temple to find clues to the state of his health.
Despite three days of searches of the sprawling Pathum Thani temple, which the authorities have effectively sealed off to control movements in and out, Phra Dhammajayo continues to evade arrest.
Of particular interest is a hyperbaric chamber that officials discovered on Friday.
Department of Special Investigation staff and police resumed the search at 10.30am yesterday, employing two teams to cover more ground in the 2,300-rai temple.
The first team, accompanied by officials from the Food and Drug Administration, the Public Health Ministry and the Energy Ministry, examined the Daowadung building and a room where Phra Dhammajayo was said to have received medical treatment.
They took a closer look at the medical equipment, including the hyperbaric chamber, as well as documents recording the equipment delivery dates. The documents show the equipment was delivered by Yanhee Hospital in 2009 and 2014.
A team of doctors at Wat Phra Dhammakaya told authorities that the medical equipment was used to treat the 72-year-old former abbot, who has not been seen for about eight months.
Forensic officers were checking when the hyperbaric chamber was last used to treat Phra Dhammajayo while FDA authorities will verify the information regarding the medical equipment before reporting the information to the DSI.
DSI deputy spokesman Woranan Srilam said that the other team carried out a search of Ban Suantawantham condominium located near Gate 8 of the temple where Phra Dhammajayo was reported to have hidden.
However, the search only found three monks of Myanmar nationality. Immigration police were called in to examine the monks’ entry documents.
On Friday night, officials found seven huge tanks of diesel fuel at the back of the temple. The tanks have a combined capacity of 140,000 litres, but there were only 65,000 litres of diesel left.
According to Pathum Thani energy officials, fuel is a strictly controlled commodity under the law on energy, and excessive fuel hoarding is not allowed. The DSI asked Khlong Luang police to investigate the matter.
Provincial Police Region 1 chief Charnthep Sesawet yesterday said that the force of police deployed to search the temple will be reduced to eight companies or 1,200 officers. He added that the Section 44 order invoked to search the temple is still necessary to find Phra Dhammajayo and it will not be revoked.
Officials and police began the search on Thursday, covering almost 200 rai of the temple compound in Klong Luang district. The raid began after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued an order under Section 44 of the interim constitution.
Phra Dhammajayo is wanted for alleged forest encroachment by the temple’s rural meditation centres and alleged money laundering and receiving stolen assets in connection with the multi-billion-baht embezzlement at Klongchan Credit Union Co-operative. He has ignored several warnings to report to the DSI after the credit union scandal came to light.
Phra Sanitwong Wutthiwangso, director of public relations at the temple, yesterday called for the Section 44 order to be revoked, saying that monks and temple followers could not get outside the temple so food had to be sent in.
The monk also denied reports that the hyperbaric chamber was used to provide “baby face” treatment to make the former abbot look younger.
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