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DSI ends search for Dhammachayo and plans to lift Section 44

The Department of Special Investigation on Friday announced an end to the search for Phra Dhammachayo after officials failed to locate the elusive former abbot of Wat Dhammakaya after 23 days of searches since February 16.

The DSI will also recommend through the justice minister the head of the National Council for Peace and Order to revoke the order issued by virtue of Section 44 declaring Wat Dhammakaya as a controlled zone.

DSI director-general Pol Col Paisit Wongmuang told a press conference at the auditorium of Klong Luang district police on Friday afternoon the DSI would now coordinate with immigration officials to tighten up all border points throughout the country to prevent Dhammachayo from leaving the country if he is still in Thailand.

He said that authorities concerned would still continue to look for the elusive monk in order to bring him for trial.

Although the order making Wat Dhammakaya acontrolled zone, Pol Col Paisit said monks and lay followers who have been protesting at Klong Luang market could not feel free to return to the temple, but he asked them to remove all the barricades they set up in the temple to block officials from getting in.

However, he said most officials would be withdrawn from the temple, leaving behind some to ensure order and to prevent third hand elements from inciting unrest.

When the situation at the temple returns to normal, the remaining officials will be pulled out, he assured.

Regarding the DSI's achievements during the 23-day siege, Pol Col Paisit said 316 followers were issued with summonses and 80 others face orders issued under Section 44.

As for Dhammachayo, he said the elusive monk is now regarded as a fugitive wanted for a host of charges, mainly money laundering and receiving stolen property.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)