World

Elusive Thai monk said to be hiding in underground maze

BANGKOK :Thai cops have uncovered secret tunnels running underneath a space-age temple of the controversial Dhammakaya Buddhist sect, as their manhunt for an elusive elderly monk accused of massive embezzlement entered a second day.

Thousands of officers are searching for 72-year-old monk Phra Dhammachayo, who is believed to be holed up in the vast Wat Dhammakaya temple grounds on the outskirts of Bangkok.

In an increasingly bizarre cat-and-mouse game, cops were frustrated for a second day running as they were led by orange-robed monks through endless rooms and hallways in the 400ha site.

Police found a 1.5km tunnel - split into two routes - dug under the UFO-like temple which may have been used by the ex-abbot as a place to hide.

"It only has one entrance but it does not go outside of the temple," Police Colonel Worranan Srilum, deputy spokesman for the DSI - Thailand's equivalent of the FBI - said.

"The Dhammakaya temple area is sprawling so it will have to take time to search... we can't find him yet, but our intelligence insists that he is still inside (the) temple," he added.

They also searched a sick bay used by the ex-abbot, but instead of finding him, pulled back an orange robe covering several pillows arranged to look like a sleeping person. 
- REUTERS

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