Free Press Journal

Thai temple denies abbot’s involvement in tiger trafficking


Bangkok: Thailand’s now infamous Tiger Temple today acknowledged “many crimes appear” to have committed at its compound but denied that its Buddhist abbot was involved in illegal trafficking of tigers, days after wildlife authorities found dozens of dead cubs in jars and freezers during a raid at the tourist spot.

In its first detailed response since the scandal broke out, Siri Wangboongerd, a spokesman of the Tiger temple in Kanchanaburi, said “many crimes” appear to have been committed at the temple. “But what happened here wasn’t done by the abbot because he does not manage this place,” he said in a news conference on the sprawling temple premises.

Siri said the temple’s tourist trade is managed by other people and not by the abbot. “There are news reports that this temple is part of the tiger trade route to the black market. How could we trade tigers? Who would do such a thing? This is a temple. This accusation is made without evidence,” he said. The abbot, Luang Ta Chan, appeared briefly, riding in a golf cart which circled the news conference, but he did not address the journalists.

He appeared for the first time today since the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation team raided the temple on May 30.

Reporters captured the footage of him sitting in an electric golf cart to feed the cattle herd in the temple area, before he returned to his lodge.

So far five men, including three monks, have been charged with possession of endangered animal parts without permission . Last week, Thailand’s wildlife authority shut down the Tiger temple after several carcasses of tiger cubs were found in freezers at the sprawling temple grounds.

It also removed more than 137 tigers from the temple grounds to rescue shelters and alleged that the tiger temple could have been a front for illegal trafficking of tigers and some other animals there.  A slaughterhouse was also found at the premises on Tuesday by police.