Hua Hin monk fears retaliation over land

Hua Hin monk fears retaliation over land

A monk in Prachuap Khiri Khan has claimed he was threatened by local politicians and villagers over the location of a Buddhist monastery he developed in 2015 on a protected land plot.

Phra Preecha Sopano of the Pa Kao Don Tabaek monastery in Hua Hin municipality recently told the media he received threats from "local mafia" and villagers over the 90-rai plot of the forest reserve where the temple is located.

"I have to be wary when receiving alms in the morning because I have been warned of being attacked," Phra Preecha said.

The monk said he moved from Rama IX temple in Bangkok and built his monastery in the municipality after he was allowed to do so by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Forestry Department.

He was said to have worked with the department under its dhamma and nature project for several years, noting the department permitted the construction of the monastery, including several buildings, on parts of the land.

However, earlier this year, local villagers reportedly lodged complaints with the provincial administration, accusing the monk of encroaching on public land.

The petition said the Buddhist monastery has several buildings, but only three monks live there. Signatories of the document also accused the monk of assembling a fence that prevents villagers from bringing in cattle to eat grass.

In response, Phra Preecha accused local and national politicians of trying to reclaim the land through dubious means, including by identifying taxation issues, to later sell the plot for property development.

The plot -- near a mountain and is surrounded by a forest -- is located in Hua Hin, a tourist town with a pricey resort and swanky condos.

"The monastery has not encroached on the forest reserve," Phra Preecha said. "On the contrary, monks are working hard to protect the national forest."

The National Office of Buddhism will next month ask the department to allow it to upgrade the monastery into a temple with 15 rai of the monastery's land, said Sawad Sae Tan, deputy director of the provincial office.

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