BANGKOK Dec 27 Devotees of a Buddhist abbot
suspected of money laundering barricaded entrances to their
temple on Tuesday as more than 700 police assembled outside,
preparing to raid the sprawling complex north of Bangkok.
The Wat Phra Dhammakaya Temple commands a huge following and
is supported by influential Thai politicians and business folk,
but critics say it exploits people and religion for money.
Thailand's attorney general said in November it would charge
Abbot Phra Dhammachayo and four others on charges of conspiracy
to launder money and receive stolen goods.
Police have tried in vain over the past few months to
question the abbot and enter the temple complex, located near
the Thai capital's Don Muang international airport.
With police poised to make another attempt on Tuesday,
Reuters reporters saw hundreds of monks and devotees inside the
temple. Some were barricading entrances, while others wore face
masks and chanted Buddhist sutras.
"The objective of the operation today is to remove anything
that is in the way, including fences," Khempak Photipak, the
officer in charge of the police operation, told Reuters.
"We're waiting for orders about when to raid the temple,"
adding that about 750 police had been deployed.
Temple officials said there were around 10,000 people in the
A series of corruption, sex and drugs scandals involving
monks at various temples has cast Thai Buddhism under a harsh
light in recent years.
(Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat and Cod Satrusayang; Writing
by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)