The National Council for Peace and Order early this month ordered the seizure of all illegally occupied agriculture reform land. This affected the 1,322 rai used by the Tiger Temple, properly known as Wat Pa Luang Ta Bowa Yannasampanno, in tambon Sing of Sai Yok district.
Wacharin Wakamanont, agricultural land reform chief of Kanchanaburi, said today (July 12) that in 2003 the Office of National Buddhism was granted 391 rai of land designated for agricultural reform for the establishment of the temple, on the condition it be used solely for religious purposes.
As the temple had misused the land, the Kanchanaburi branch of the Agricultural Land Reform Office would reduce the total size of the compound to 279 rai – about 21 per cent of its current area – to be used only for Buddhist affairs, he said.
The temple’s tiger zoo operation was shut down about six weeks ago amid suspicions the management was involved in illegal wildlife trafficking.
The remaining 112 rai of the original grant, together with another 931 rai of agricultural reform land the temple encroached on, would be reclaimed and allocated to 118 poor families to farm and operate as a cooperative, Mr Wacharin said.
Over a decade ago, officials found seven tigers being kept at the temple, supposedly brought in by people who found them as orphaned cubs. The temple was allowed to keep them as there was nowhere else for them to go. The population grew rapidly to 147 early this year and officials suspected the temple management of breeding them as fast as possible and involvement in illegal trafficking.
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