Temple accused of land encroachment

Temple accused of land encroachment

Faithful insist Khao Yai centre legal

Muk Tawan-World Peace Valley Meditation Centre at Khao Yai is a branch of the main sect. The Land Reform Office has ruled it is partly on property that rightfully should have gone to landless farmers. (Photo FB/worldpeace072)
Muk Tawan-World Peace Valley Meditation Centre at Khao Yai is a branch of the main sect. The Land Reform Office has ruled it is partly on property that rightfully should have gone to landless farmers. (Photo FB/worldpeace072)

Authorities have found Wat Phra Dhammakaya's branch at Khao Yai in Nakhon Ratchasima's Pak Chong district encroaches on Sor Por Kor agricultural reform land.

Chamnan Klinchan, chief of the Agricultural Land Reform Office's (Alro) Nakhon Ratchasima branch, said Sunday the fence line of the Muk Tawan-World Peace Valley Meditation Centre, covering more than 900 rai, was found to have overlapped with Sor Por Kor land.

The land ownership documents which were issued for the encroached area must be revoked, he said.

Sor Por Kor land is allocated by Alro to poor and landless farmers for agricultural purposes. It cannot be sold or transferred to others, except heirs.

Mr Chamnan said the meditation centre has not allowed his agency to inspect the facility and he is waiting for the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to work with Alro to survey the area.

He said the centre sits on the state-run Lam Takong self-help settlement project, which gave more than 100,000 rai of land to locals affected by the construction of Lam Takong dam more than 40 years ago.

Any activities not stipulated in the self-help settlement land scheme must be reported to authorities, he said.

Ong-art Dhammanitta, a spokesman for the Dhammakaya disciples' group, insisted land ownership documents were lawfully issued for the meditation centre's land, which is not situated in either forest reserves or Sor Por Kor land.

Land title deeds and Nor Sor 3 Kor documents have been issued for the land, where a three-phase development is ongoing.

The land, which is currently occupied by the Maharat Ubasikajan Khon Nok Yoong Foundation, was purchased from the owner who had occupied the land for five years. It is no longer under the self-help settlement land scheme, Mr Ong-art said.

He said the development on the land was approved by the Pong Talong Tambon Administrative Organisation in 2013 and the temple's followers donated money to establish the centre.

He said the centre holds a dhamma practice facility and offers condominiums and houses for dhamma practitioners.

The facility was not set up for a commercial purpose, Mr Ong-art insisted, saying the temple is ready to allow the DSI and the media inspect the area.

Mr Ong-art said authorities are also targeting other branches of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, including Lanna Dhutanka in the San Sai district of Chiang Mai and the dhamma practice centre in the Bang Pahan district of Ayutthaya.

He said the temple's followers believed the move was unjustified. Attempts to intimidate the temple and its followers would conflict with the prime minister's policy of reconciliation.

The temple came under the spotlight after its abbot, Phra Dhammajayo, was charged with money laundering and receiving stolen property in connection with the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement case.

The 72-year-old abbot has kept a low profile and defied arrest by the DSI, whose latest attempt to nab him on June 16 was hindered by supporters.

Kajornsak Putthanuphab, executive director of the Office of the Attorney-General's Investigation Office 3, said the OAG and the DSI have yet to discuss seeking a second search warrant for the temple.

Several meetings could be held to iron out ways to deal with the issue so clashes don't occur during the operation, including establishing restricted areas in the search zone where people who refrain from moving can be arrested, he said.

Efforts to seek a second search warrant were not far away, he said.

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