Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Temple Thieves Get Daring

Thieves have removed gold foil from two reclining Buddha images at Wat Bang plamaw in Ayutthata's Bang Ban District - the latest temple heist that shocked Buddhist society.

Temple thieves get daring

An increase in robberies of valuable artifacts from ancient temples in the former capital city are driving monk to despair.

One recent heist which shocked Buddhists the most was the removal of gold foil from two large reclining buddha images - Phra BuddhasaiyartMongkol Sanpetch and Phra Buddhasaiyart MongkolChinawat- at Bang Plamaw temple in tambonNamtao of Ayutthaya's Bang Ban district. The robbers also extracted gold from the gates of the temple 's ordination hall.

Temple abbot Phra Maha Prasert Jantawiro, 53, said losses were put at 15 million baht.

Temple robberies mostly invlove the thef of ancient Buddha images and valuables such as Dharma cabinets and brass accessories. Few Stolen goods are ever retrieved.

Four other robberies took place at Wat Choengtha, Wat Bamrungtham, Wat Kudilai, and Wat Bang Plamaw over a period of two months in Ayutthaya.

Phra Mali Thammathaso, the 51 year old acting abbot of Wat Cheongtha, said thieves stole eight sema- leaf like boundary stones - from around the temple's old ordination hall in the early hour of Jan 02 this year.

"The sema are priceless. They were with the temple for ages," the monk said.

Thieves also broke inot the ordination hall late last year but did not get anything, he said.

"Everything had been stolen over the past 10 years, so there was nothing else left in the hall to take," he said. Most temples possessing precious artifacts have to take care of their property themselves.

(A monk inspects the damages gate at Wat Bang Plamaw)

They resort to mundance tactics, such as replacing ancient artifacts with cheap objects. Many temple have placed coffee containers as a subsitute for brass vases, steel plates for gongs, and earthenware pots for joss-stick holders.

Phra Yanatrailok, secrety to chief of the Ayutthaya Sanga Office, has warned monks in more than 400 temples in Ayutthaya, to be alert for robberies. He advises monk to take photographs of all valuable objects and help police and villagers guard their compunds.

(Story and photos by Sunthorn Pongpao)

(Source: Bangkok post)

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