Thai media claim a senior Buddhist monk has fled to Germany and applied at Frankfurt Airport for asylum. Thai police visiting Germany to seek his return are said to want him for alleged temple embezzlement in Thailand.
The Bangkok Post reported Tuesday that German authorities had denied visiting Thai police permission to meet the detained asylum-seeker Phra Phrom Methee.
On 24 May, Thai police raided five Buddhist temples in the Bangkok region and arrested senior monks on a variety of charges, including alleged embezzlement.
Thailand's military took seized power in 2014. Intrusions into temple grounds also took place last year amid scandals in Buddhism ranks.
Anti-junta protesters, including students, have in recent months pressed demands that elections postponed four times be held this year.
Fled via Laos, Cambodia
The Bangkok Post said Phra Phrom Methee, who had been assistant abbot at Samphanthawong Temple in the Thai capital, fled via neighboring Laos and Cambodia and then boarded a flight to Germany.
Disembarking at Frankfurt, he immediately filed for asylum and was detained, said the Post, which, in turn, cited a Thai information service Matichon Online.
Five people who abetted his escape were likely to face charges, said the Post, citing police at Nakhom Phanom on Thailand's border with Laos.
When Thai police commandos raided temples two weeks ago, deputy Thai prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who himself had sported luxury watches, earning him the nickname "Rolex General," said the wave of arrests was part of a wide-ranging investigation.
Thailand's temples, which earn billions of dollars (euros) every year from donations, have had their image tarnished in recent years by disclosure of money and sex scandals.
The junta pressured temple communities to enforce tougher discipline for more than 300,000 monks, who are highly respected in Thailand.
Thai links in Germany
In 2009, Germany revoked a residence permit for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He had reportedly been living in Bonn.
Thailand's new King Maha Vajiralongkorn reportedly stays often in Bavaria, Germany, where he came to attention last year.
In 2016, he bought a villa in the Bavarian lakeside town of Tutzing - on the shore's of Lake Starnberg, reported the German news agency DPA.
ipj/rc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)