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Thai junta in showdown at Buddhist temple gates

Religious backlash looms as devotees defy police attempts to arrest charismatic abbot

Phra Pasura Dantamano of Wat Phra Dhammakaya points to a police notice attached near a gate of the temple. (Photo by Marwaan Macan-Markar)

PATHUM THANI, Thailand -- An air of siege hangs around the perimeter of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Thailand's largest and wealthiest Buddhist temple, in Pathum Thani, north of Bangkok.

Checkpoints manned by police and soldiers monitor movements on the five roads leading to this sprawling complex. The police have placed warning notices at 12 of the temple's 14 gates, attracting attention among white-clad devotees, many of them middle-aged women. The signs indicate that the temple is under official investigation.

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