Thai monk appeals for help in lone fight against loggers
Elderly monk claims his appeals to police weren’t properly followed up and the logging gang targetting the hundreds of trees surrounding his temple are now threatening him
By Pattanpong Sripiachai
A 76-year-old Buddhist monk, the abbot and only person living at a temple in a northeast Thai forest harbouring more than a thousand precious trees that is also part of a royal project to promote conservation, is calling for help in his fight with a transnational logging gang.
After receiving numerous death threats, Luang Pu Kittiphong Kittisophon, the abbot of Wat Pa Kham Sawang temple in tambon Nakham in Si Songkhram district, has formally petitioned local authorities for help to protect the forest surrounding his temple, which consists of over a thousand Siamese Rosewood trees believed to be between 200 and 300 years old.
The abbot called on provincial governor Somchai Witdamrong to step in, saying close to a hundred trees have been illegally cut down and taken away by the gang over the past year.
Previously, the abbot had complained to local media about threats made against him by the gang urging him, the sole occupant of the temple, to leave so that they could cut down as many trees as they wanted.
Most recently, in the middle of the night last Wednesday, someone fired a gun right next to his hut, which he took to be an even stronger warning from the gang.
Following his petition, Mr Somchai, along with the local military, police and forest protection officers, visited the temple to discuss measures to help the monk and community protect the precious forest, and pledged to step up efforts to track down the gang.
The monk said the forest last year became part of a forest protection project implemented by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
After detecting the illegal logging activities, he said he had notified local police several times but no significant efforts had ever been made to deal with the perpetrators.
He then turned to the local media shortly before the latest threat was made against him, added the monk.
Mr Somchai said the authorities are in talks with the nearby community over the importance of taking an active role in efforts to protect the forest.
Moreover, local residents are being encouraged to work together with the authorities to share any new information about the gang, said the governor.