BANGKOK – The Tiger Temple was turned into a chaotic scene of protest when a combined force of over 100 police, soldiers and park officials seized six Asian black bears and tried to take them out of the temple yesterday.
The standoff between officials and monks continued in the morning today.
The officials who were led by national park chief Somsak Pompet came with a court warrant to search the temple again after they were not allowed entry the day earlier to check three missing tigers from the temple.
At the inspection of the temple yesterday, they seized six Asian black or Moon bears after the temple staff could not produce official documents that they were obtained legitimately.
But as officials tried to leave the temple ground with the bears in a cage, they were blocked by almost a hundred of monks and staff led by the abbot.
The monks sat on the front gate in front of the vehicle that carried the cage, blocking the officials to leave.
Negotiation for three hours ended with no success to convince the protesting monks to allow the vehicle to leave.
The deputy governor Boonyasopon Chantara-upai was called in to help negotiate in a second round but also was unsuccessful when the abbot refused to negotiate.
No negotiation was held Thursday night as both sides were still confronting each other at the temple although officials would explain that the standoff could hurt the bears in the cage which might cause them to become exhausted and might die.
Earlier on Wednesday, National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation officials went to the temple to check for three tigers which were suspected to be missing.
The three tigers are among seven Bengal tigers which the department under former director general Plodprasob Suraswadee seized from the temple in 2001 but left them under care of the temple after it promised to look after them. The three missing tigers are 3-7 years of age.
The authorities brought with them microchip scanners to identify but they were not given cooperation to enter or search.
The temple now houses a total of 146 tigers.
The authorities said they would seek a search warrant from the court and return to the temple again yesterday.
They plan to confiscate all tigers from the temple and transfer them to a sanctuary in Ratchaburi province if they find that the temple is unable to take care of the tigers. Concerned authorities had already impounded more than 100 hornbills from the temple, which are suspected to be involved in illegal trade. – Thai PBS