Cult temple searched again, no sign of 'Phra Bida'

Cult temple searched again, no sign of 'Phra Bida'

Officials from concerned agencies search a cult temple in Khon San district of Chaiyaphum province on Wednesday, but find no trace of the cult leader. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)
Officials from concerned agencies search a cult temple in Khon San district of Chaiyaphum province on Wednesday, but find no trace of the cult leader. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)

CHAIYAPHUM: Authorities continued the search of a cult temple in Khon San district on Wednesday in the absence of the so-called “Phra Bida’’, or spiritual father, whose bizarre treatments for illness included having his followers drink his urine and scurf.

Eleven corpses, said to be cult followers, were found on the premises when it was first searched on Sunday.

Deputy provincial governor Charnchai Sornsriwichai led police, soldiers, health and local officials  to search the temple - a thatched house deep in the jungle in tambon Dong Klang of Khon San district of this northeastern province.

They were armed with a search warrant issued by the Phu Khieo provincial court.

Cult leader Tawee Nanra, 74, dubbed Phra Bida by his followers, was not there.

He was released on 50,000 court bail put up by his 62-year-old brother Thongthip Nanra on Monday after  officials raided the temple and took him away.  The Phu Khieo court reportedly set June 27 for his next appearance.

This followed reports the cult leader preached superstition and weird treatments which his followers claimed could treat all illnesses. Eleven bodies were discovered during the raid.

Police initially pressed four charges against Mr Tawee - trespassing on public land, breaching the Medicine Act, illegally transporting corpses and holding gatherings made illegal under the emergency decree.

TV reports said that his followers drank his urine and scurf to cure illness.  Some media outlets reported that the treatments included telling his followers to drink his urine, excrement and scurf for about 20 years. (continues below)

Reporters and photographers throng the house of the cult leader in Chaiyaphum province as officials continue to search the area. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)

Officials were divided into two teams to search the premises on Wednesday, the second day of their  search for evidence of wrongdoing.

One team examined earthenware jars and containers which were found earlier. Those jars contained what followers claimed to be holy water used for scrubbing bodies as part of treatments. Officials said the water in the jars and containers had a foul smell and contained bones, old flower garlands and animal skulls.

The other team inspected an area used for food production. They found fermented fish, dried squid and rice crackers without labels of approval from the Food and Drug Administration.  Followers of the cult leader were seen taking those products to a pickup truck for sale to stalls at villages in Khon San and nearby areas.    

The officials impounded the goods for further examination.  They also examined a cow pen, a fish pond and an area where 15 Rusa deer were being kept.  

Mr Charnchai said the thatched house and other structures would be dismantled over the next 7-10 days. People staying there would have time to move out.

During the search, some followers were seen packing and moving from the premises.

Local police were stilll gathering evidence before deciding whether to press additional charges against the cult leader, Mr Charnchai said.

After Mr Tawee wasa released on bail by Phu Khieo court on Monday, Chaiyaphum governor Kraisorn Kongchalad said about 10 followers arrived to pick him up. He did not know where they took him.

The cult leader's elder brother, Boontan Nanra, 77, said that after his youngest brother Thongthip posted bail for Mr Tawee he had not returned to his home in Khon Kaen. He was not worried. His brother Tawee's many followers would take good care of him. He might be in Udon Thani or Maha Sarakham, he said. 

Eleven bodies found at the cult temple on Monday, bagged and taken away for autopsies. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)

Do you like the content of this article?