Section 44 to be proposed to shut down Tiger Temple

The  Agricultural Land Reform is to propose the prime minister to invoke Section 44 of the interim constitution to shut down the controversial Tiger Temple as it might have involved in illicit wildlife trade.

The Office discovered that the temple was inappropriately using temple grounds and has encroached upon state lands.

According to Kanchanaburi branch of Agricultural Land Reform Office, the Wat Pa Laung Ta Bua or known as Tiger Temple had ill-used its land grant.

It said the land grant was issued for a total of 391 rai plot of land and the application was made through the National Office of Buddhism for exclusive use as temple grounds.

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But it was discovered that besides the temple, a zoo was established and furthermore, construction of multi-storied commercial buildings and a dome not connected to religious activities were also done by the temple but located outside of the allocated plot.

As a result of this discovery, the Office said it is preparing a proposal for the Prime Minister to invoke Section 44 so that they can reclaim the property immediately and attend to other legal matters involved.

The Office said it had plans to either establish a Buddhist religious study center there instead or distribute the plots among villagers who have no lands of their own to farm.

In another related development a team made up of police, soldiers and officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation yesterday seized four tigers from a tycoon’s house in Wang Dong sub-district in Kanchanaburi municipality.

Two female and two male tigers were found there aged between 1–10 years of age.

Two caretakers were the only people on the premises while the whereabouts of the tycoon, Thawach Kajornchaikun,  a Bangkok native who owns the house is unknown.

Officials have seized the property as evidence.

Pol Col Montri Paencharoen, the deputy superintendent of the Crime Suppression Department who has been charged with the responsibility of locating and rescuing another 20 tigers that were kept at the ‘Tiger Temple’ which has now gone missing, commented that the house that was raided was most likely a slaughter house that also serves as a clearing house for the distribution of tiger parts.

Royal Thai Police deputy commissioner Pol Gen Chalermkiat Sriwirakan commented yesterday that there was a strong possibility that the entire case would be handed over to the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division to handle.

He elaborated that that was due to the fact that the case involves the nation’s natural resources which are the direct purview of the division.

He went on to reveal that an official probe has uncovered that at present there are no less than 30 tiger rearing establishments all over the country which will have to be checked.

If any of these establishments are keeping tigers without legal permits or involved with illegal activities, then immediate action will be taken.

Meanwhile a lawyer of Wat Pa Luang Ta Mahabua Wildlife Foundation Mr Saiyud Phenboonchu, said Luang Ta Chan, the abbot of the temple, would be returning to the temple on June 9 to personally host a press conference on the matter.

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