MANDALAY — Nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu led a prayer and protest at the Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay on Thursday to condemn the Thai government’s raid on the Dhammakaya Temple in Bangkok.
Monks and local residents held photos of the 72-year-old abbot Phra Dhammachayo—who is wanted by Thai police on charges of money laundering—and signs saying “pray for Buddhists of Thailand” and “Sasana Destroyer Prayut’s government, Get out immediately from Dhammakaya.”
“We are showing solidarity with the Buddhist monks of Dhammakaya and praying peace will come upon Dhammakaya and Phra Dhammachayo,” said Ma Ba Tha leader U Wirathu, who later claimed that 200 people attended the demonstration.
Thai police accuse Phra Dhammachayo of accepting US$40 million stolen from a credit union and originally sought to arrest him in June last year.
Last week the Thai military government ordered emergency powers to be used in the search and authorities faced off with monks and supporters at the temple.
“I believe the incident is politically motivated as the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluk were disciples of Phra Dhammachayo,” U Wirathu told The Irrawaddy after the event.
“I know Phra Dhammachayo and his Dhammakaya well, they are Buddhist monks with strict discipline and I believe he has no relation to the money laundering,” he added.
Dhammakaya Temple organized a mass donation in 2015 to strengthen religious ties between Burma and Thailand and awarded Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha an honorary award for safeguarding religion in 2016.
“The accusations of the government of Thailand are a great insult to the abbot who is enthusiastically working for the flourishing of Buddhism and nationalism which is vital for the country,” said U Wirathu.
“We condemn the government of Thailand for this ugly action against Buddhism and request the government of Thailand to leave Dhammakaya and let Phra Dhammachayo, who is innocent, live in peace again,” he added.
Nationalist Buddhist monks in Rangoon were reportedly planning to stage a protest at the Embassy of Thailand.