KANCHANABURI – Pol Maj Gen Suranit Phrombut said on Friday that he will summon Phra Wisutthi Sarathera, also known as Luang Ta Chan, of the notorious “Tiger Temple” for questioning about multiple legal complaints related to alleged wildlife trafficking and forest encroachment.
He said police are gathering evidence and questioning witnesses and waiting for the results of tiger DNA tests before summoning the 61-year-old abbot, saying he has to answer to many accusations.
Meanwhile representatives of the Abbot maintain that he had nothing to do with the alleged abuse and illegal trading of tigers and animal parts. They blamed subordinates and other temple officials.
Siri Wangboongerd, a spokesman of the temple in Kanchanaburi, 200 kilometres west of Bangkok said the templeâ€™s tourist trade is managed by other people and not by the abbot.
The abbot was spotted riding a golf cart on the grounds on Thursday but he declined to take questions, his representatives said he had a heart condition that made it inconvenient for him to talk to reporters.
Police were present at the conference as observers. The abbot has not been charged with any crime.
Pol Maj Gen Suranit said that so far, people associated with the Tiger Temple, officially known as Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua Yannasampanno, faced 11 legal complaints.
Many people are alleged to have been involved including a monk who was the secretary to the abbot, and charges would be pressed against them, Pol Maj Gen Suranit said.
Pol Col Supitpong Pakjarung, vice-chairman of the Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua Yannasampanno Foundation denied Phra Wisutthi Sarathera had anything to do with the tiger cub carcasses and talismans and other discoveries made at the temple.
He also said he had resigned from all positions at the temple and the foundation and that Siri Wangboonkerd, a former Thai Rak Thai MP, would succeed him. In any case, the construction of a zoo at the temple would continue, the Bangkok Post reported.
Meanwhile, the Buddhism office of Kanchanaburi reported on Friday that 15 monks and one novice remained at the Tiger Temple and were conducting routine Buddhist activities.
On Tuesday, police discovered a slaughterhouse and tiger holding facility that they believe was linked to the temple and used in a suspected animal trafficking network.
Animal rights activists have long accused the temple of mistreating its tigers. The government suspects the monks at the temple have been involved in illegal breeding and trafficking of the animals. The temple resisted previous efforts to take away the tigers but relented last week after police obtained a court order.
A day after seizing the tigers, police stopped a monk and two other men in a truck leaving the temple with two tiger skins and a suitcase with tiger teeth.