Thai king strips monastic title from wanted Buddhist abbot

A Buddhist abbot whom police are seeking to arrest for accepting donations of embezzled money has been stripped of a royally bestowed religious title.

A statement from the Royal Palace said King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has approved stripping the honorary title from 72-year-old Phra Dhammajayo, head of the Dhammakaya sect, because of the criminal charges against him, which also include land encroachment. He remains in the monkhood.

Police on Monday continued a three-week siege of Dhammakaya's massive headquarters temple north of Bangkok, seeking to detain Dhammajayo because he has refused to turn himself in since early last year, pleading ill health. Seeking to avoid violence and bad publicity, they have avoided storming the complex, instead tightening access bit by bit. However, it is not clear that Dhammajayo is inside.