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Date: 12/22/98

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Dhammakaya statue not so golden

A NEW controversy at the Dhammakaya Temple involves a golden statue of a late, much revered monk whose popular meditation technique drew followers to Dhammakaya for decades.

The temple claims the statue is made of one tonne of gold, making it the country's most expensive religious image.

The person who made the statue of Luang Phor Sod on Monday told iTV at most 400 kilogrammes of gold had been used.

Before the statue was made, the temple launched a campaign to attract donations, asking its followers for either cash or gold. After the statue was completed, the temple proclaimed that its goal to build a one-tonne gold statue had been achieved.

''There can't be more than 400 kilogrammes of gold in that statue,'' the goldsmith told iTV.

Meanwhile another land dispute involving Dhammakaya has been settled in Si Sa Ket province.

Wat Muang Khong, a temple affiliated to Dhammakaya, had occupied 415 rai of land registered as a historic site by the Fine Arts Department in Sasi Salai district. This drew repeated protests by affected villagers.

After lodging complaints with the local administration department, the villagers brought Dhammakaya and the Fine Arts Department to the negotiating table. Much of the land was eventually returned to villagers.

Local residents were in dispute with the temple. Phra Samphao Chittavaro on Monday said the temple had been attacked because critics were unaware of the religious service it provided to residents of Si Sa Ket and nearby Roi Et and Surin.

According to villager Boot Phukham Wat, the site, known as Dong Muang Khong Khok, had been in dispute. He said 60 years ago the parents of some local residents had been upset enough to asked the local administrative department to mediate. The Fine Arts Department finally arranged a settlement in which the temple was allocated 60 rai and the remainder went as farmland to the local people.

Siwarat Jampaphan, a teacher at Hua Khua Nong Ueng School in Rasi Salai district, said on Monday that on Jan 9 the temple would give Buddhist lessons to 900 primary- and secondary-school children. She said local residents were routinely ordained at the temple.

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