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Temple sits on forest land, its title deeds may be revoked’

Jun 08. 2016
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By SUPOJ KAEWKASRI
THE NATION

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THE National Office of Buddhism is consulting with the Office of Land Reform for Agriculture over whether to revoke the Sor Por Kor title deed for land occupied by the ‘Tiger Temple’ in Kanchanaburi.
Pradab Phothikanchanawat, director of the National Office of Buddhism’s Kanchanaburi office, said the Land Reform Office found that the temple – known as Wat Pa Luangta Bua – used Sor Por Kor land for the wrong purposes, or purposes other than requested.
The temple sought permission from the Land Reform Office to use a plot of about 391 rai in 2003. 
An inspection of the land found that the temple built monasteries for 15 monks and one novice. There were also areas set aside as living quarters of wildlife. 
He said the Land Reform Office had to further check if the temple encroached on more Sor Por Kor land than it had requested.
“If the results of the check shows that the land is used not in accordance with the purpose allowed by the Office, it could revoke use of the title deeds,” Pradab said.
He said he actually foresaw difficulties in revoking titles for the land and wanted the office to allow the temple to retain land that was used for Buddhism purposes. 
“But it also depends on objectives and conditions that the Land Office gave to the temple in using the Sor Por Kor land and whether the temple follows the regulations,” he said.
Pradab said Luangta Chan, the abbot, was not at the temple, but he had assigned his deputy to oversee the temple. However, the abbot still had the authority on making decisions.
He said he had reported this issue to Phra Thep Methaporn, the chief monk in Kanchanaburi, and was awaiting his decision on the matter.
The officials had found ongoing construction of a vihara – a Buddha image hall – that was 115 metres x85m x14m, plus a building of four bathrooms (5.9m x3.7m x3m) and a storage room (15m x8m x4m) in the temple’s area.
Supap Korphak, kamnan of Tambon Sing who led the inspection team, has been assigned to prevent the temple from dismantling any building within the temple’s compound. The officials filed a report with police at Sai Yok police station to take legal action against Wat Pa Luangta Bua, Wat Pa Luangta Bua foundation and Tiger Temple Co Ltd. 
Sources said related officials checked the temple’s land and found that the land spanning 391 rai was located in forest areas.
Use of the forest land was in violation of Articles 54, 55 and 72 of the Forestry Act 1941, Article 9 of the Land Code 1954, Article 99 of the Enhancement and the Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act 1992.
Amnat Patcharakul, a forestry official specialist, was made a witness for violation of these laws by the temple. 
Officials at the Land Reform Office for Agriculture in Kanchanaburi filed a complaint with police against the temple over this issue. 

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