Dhammakaya monks stage hunger strike against junta harassment

Monks and worshippers of the Dhammakaya sect have staged a protest against orders for the arrest of their spiritual leader, after the authorities blocked them from entering the temple.
 
On 22 February 2017, Ai Petthong, a representative of Dhammakaya followers, told the media that the authorities have prohibited over a thousand worshippers from entering Dhammakaya temple. They therefore decided to establish “Ariya 072 of Khlong Luang camp” and staged a protest outside the temple area. 
 
Ai said the group’s purpose is to protect the temple in a non-violent way and to take care of followers who want to protect their belief. He confirmed that the group will not interrupt the authorities’ work.  
 
The group also made a plea to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to abolish the junta’s order to seize Dhammakaya temple, reasoning the order will create difficulties for local villagers. 
 
After talking to the media, 7 Dhammakaya monks started meditating and began a hunger strike. 
 
On 15 February, the junta invoked its absolute power under Article 44 of the Interim Charter to declare Dhammakaya temple a “controlled zone,” granting security officers the authority to search buildings, make arrests and cut off water or electricity supplies as they see fit.
 
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, this order is technically equal to declaring martial law over the area. 
 
The order facilitates an attempt to arrest Dhammachayo, the spiritual leader of the Dhammakaya sect. He is alleged to have accepted more than a billion baht in donations from the president of a credit union who is now in prison for embezzlement. Dhammachayo has also been charged with illegal land encroachment.
 
 
The seven monks stage a hunger strike (Photo from Matichon Online)