BANGKOK, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's sustained tussle between authorities and a religious cult's members will come to an end within the upcoming Sunday, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
The Department of Special Investigation's Deputy Director General Songsak Raksaksakul said the month-long siege by the DSI-led police and army units around Wat Thammakaya temple in Pathum Thani province on the northern outskirts of the Thai capital, will be finished no later than the upcoming Sunday.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had imposed the absolute Article 44 of the interim constitution to declare the 800-acre temple premises a restricted zone as thousands of monks and laymen have blocked the DSI-led missions from getting in and arresting Phra Dhammajayo, the former Dhammakaya abbot who remains fugitive and is believed to be hiding inside.
The cult leader, who was recently deprived of a senior monk's rank as Phra Thepmahamunee by the Prime Minister's Office, has been accused of involvement in some 26 million U.S. dollars in alleged money- laundering scams over the last decade.
Songsak said the authorities were assessing the situation in and around the temple before they take steps to get in one of the buildings, namely Boonraksa Building, to search for the fugitive monk.
"We'll make a decision within five days starting from today to do something to put an end to this prolonged situation. The longer it is dragged on, the more they will distort the truth about our siege," said the deputy DSI chief, referring to the protesters who have remained in the premises of the temple, including monks and laymen, most of whom being followers of Phra Dhammjayo.
An arrest warrant was issued against the former abbot by court last year.
He did not elaborate on when the fresh raid on the temple will take place, given thousands of DSI officials and policemen put on alert near the gates to the temple with army soldiers on the outer perimeters.
Meanwhile, the Office and National Buddhism and high-level government officials are yet to decide whether Phra Dhammajayo will be disrobed and detained on the money-laundering charges after he has been rounded up, Songsak said.
A certain venue has already been prepared to detain the fugitive monk during investigation, he said without giving details.
Several monks, known as followers of Phra Dhammajayo, are yet to turn themselves in to the police for their alleged attempts to obstruct the DSI-led missions though six others already did, including Phra Palad Seksan Attathamo, who was briefly detained and released under bail on Wednesday.
About 160 monks and laymen, mostly Dhammajayo's followers, have been summoned by the DSI for questioning due to their allegedly obstructing moves and instigating others to prolong the mass protests against the authorities either inside or outside the temple.