The cult leader was identified only as Thawee, 74, a resident of Nong Rua district of Khon Kaen province, Chaiyaphum Governor Kraisorn Kongchalard said on Monday.
He was arrested on Sunday when a celebrity shaman, Jiraphan Phetkhao, better known as Mor Pla, led police and authorities from other government agencies to raid the campsite located in a forest in Moo 2 village in Tambon Dong Klang of Chaiyaphum’s Khon San district.
Jiraphan claims to have special powers to help people affected by superstition, and runs a TV programme in which he campaigns against those he calls fake shamans and Buddhist months who violate the monk laws.
Jiraphan said a woman had sought his help after her mother went to the campsite, which was regarded by followers as a “hermitage”, and was allegedly not allowed to return home.
Jenjira, 53, a resident of Khon Kaen, told Jiraphan that her mother, Noi, 80, went to the hermitage and had not returned home. Jenjira said she later learned that the followers were told to eat mucus, urine, excrement, and scurf of “The Father” Thawee because all wastes from him could cure all diseases.
When Mor Pla, the Chaiyaphum governor and Khon San police chief Pol Colonel Watanachai Janhathum arrived with other authorities at the campsite, they found Thawee was surrounded by some 30 followers, who appeared to be middle-aged and elderly people.
They stayed together in a large make-shift wooden hut whose roof was made of grass leaves.
When the authorities arrived, no one in the hut was wearing a face mask to protect themselves against the Covid-19 virus.
All the followers reportedly affirmed their belief to the authorities that they thought Thawee was “Father, the God” who could cure them of all diseases.
Shockingly, several of them drank Thawee’s urine and ate his scurf fresh from his arms in front of the authorities.
But the 11 bodies, including one of Thawee’s mother, kept at the campsite – both in the main hut and satellite huts, apparently proved otherwise.
The followers admitted to the authorities that the bodies belonged to sick followers who had died at the campsite after they went there to seek treatment from “The Father”. They wanted their bodies to remain there for “The Father” to later send them to “heaven”.
All the bodies had death certificates issued by local authorities and they were put in zip-lock bags and placed inside coffins. The followers pierced the bottom of the coffins for residual liquids to seep out and fall to the ground, but the bodies were not preserved with formalin.
Asked by Mor Pla on Sunday why the followers thought he was “God, the Father”, Thawee claimed that it was not something he had taught, but it was his followers’ belief.
Chaiyaphum Governor Kraisorn said Thawee was charged with encroaching on forest land and violating the public health law and disease control act.
Kraisorn said the authorities have seized the 11 bodies to perform autopsies to find the cause of their death and further charges may be slapped on the accused.
Thawee is being detained at the Khon San Police Station and a dozen of his followers went to the station to wait for him outside.
Published : May 09, 2022
By : THE NATION