PHRA PHROMMEDHI, the assistant abbot of Wat Samphanthawongsaram, who was wanted for alleged embezzlement of National Buddhism Office (NBO) funds, escaped to Laos with assistance from a disciple and has since travelled to an unknown destination further north, a police investigation found.
The unnamed female disciple, who was arrested at the Thai-Lao border checkpoint while returning to the Kingdom after |seeing off the fugitive monk, has been interrogated about the monk’s whereabouts so that Thai police could contact their Lao counterparts to locate and arrest him, a police source said.
National police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda led a team of investigators to Nakhon Phanom province yesterday morning to follow up on progress in the case.
They were told that the monk was about to return to his Bangkok temple from Phitsanulok province when he heard about the arrests of other senior monks at Sa Ket and Sam Phraya temples on May 24, so he diverted his female disciple’s van, driven by her chauffeur, to Nakhon Phanom.
He stayed overnight at a hotel in Khammouane province in Laos on Thursday before travelling to northern Laos, police said.
A disciple told police that the monk had known for some time that police would arrest him over the graft allegation.
He apparently told the disciple that he was not worried because he had prepared an escape route and could go and stay in Laos.
Nakhon Phanom police yesterday also seized for inspection a Toyota van at a Renu Nakhon temple, suspected to be linked to the fugitive monk, and was gathering evidence to seek an arrest warrant for a local monk accused of helping the fugitive monk flee.
Meanwhile, “Chao Phut Phalang Phaendin” (Buddhists Who Are Power of Land) group representative Jaroon Wannakasinanont yesterday filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok against Pol Lt-Colonel Pongporn Phramsane, the chief of the NBO, and officials involved in the temple development budget approval, accusing them of corruption with intent to damage the Sangha Council.
The group accused Pongporn of filing false complaints with the police’s Counter Corruption Division against the five senior monks on April 11.
The group claimed that the officials had presented the senior monks the ill-gotten money for use and then Pongporn filed the complaint, resulting in the monks’ arrests, which the group said were a heart-breaking sight.