Illegal occupiers of temple to be evicted
World Heritage status under threat
State authorities have moved in to take action and evict settlers encroaching on the grounds of an ancient and deserted temple in Ayutthaya province. The Fine Arts Department has laid charges accusing three groups of people of encroaching on the premises of Wat Worachet temple in tambon Ban Pom in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district and using areas in and around the temple for holding superstitious rituals to benefit them financially. These occupiers came to the temple over five years ago.
They are a group of monks led by Phra Maha Singthon, a group of nuns, and a group of mediums who claim to have supernatural powers. Phra Maha Singthon claimed the ancient temple was built in commemoration of King Naresuan the Great during the Ayutthaya Period.
However, archaeologists and experts of the Fine Arts Department have so far provided no confirmation to the claim.
On Dec 22, 2006, Ayutthaya police and department officials raided the living quarters of the monks which were set up near the temple and dismantled structures encroaching on temple land.
Anek Sihamart, director of the provincial office of archaeology, said the illegal structures had caused damage to the temple.
The monks have been charged with ruining an important archaeological site of the nation. Several years ago, the same group of nuns used an area of the temple as a place to treat drug patients. The patients were kept in chains there during the course of the treatment.
It caused an outrage among locals when the nuns defended their practice by saying that this was the most effective way of curing the drug addicts.
The nuns were soon forced to give up such activities. But they are still staying at the temple. In August last year, another group of people sneaked into the temple to perform superstitious rites. They claimed to possess supernatural powers and began to attract big crowds.
When the Fine Arts Department was told about it, encroachment and fraud charges were brought against them.
However, they have defied eviction orders and are continuing the encroachment.
On Oct 29 last year, more than 1,000 followers of the three groups once again flocked to the temple grounds and held separate rituals there.
Earlier in the week Mr Anek said the department is about to turn the abandoned site into an active temple and invite monks from other places to live there.
Ayutthaya deputy governor Uthan Chawamethi is concerned that land encroachment and the strange and misleading rituals could cost Ayutthaya its World Heritage status.
The city of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam, was declared a World Heritage site in 1991.
Bangkok Post Jan. 27, 2008