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Date: 1/21/99

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Protestant 'cult' triggers concern

A HOUSE committee yesterday voiced concern that a group of Protestants was turning into a cult and had lured about 80,000 young Thais into its ranks.

The House committee on religions, arts and culture considered the issue of the ''Hope of Thais Foundation'' more urgent than the issue of Wat Dhammakaya and postponed its meeting on the latter issue.

Den Tohmeena, chairman of the House committee, announced after the meeting that the House panel feared that Thai youths who had joined the ''cult'' would be brainwashed to worship only God and deny their own parents.

He said the House committee had learnt that the youths had donated all their money to the foundation, which had set up Bangkok's Hope Church without receiving permission from the Religious Affairs Department.

''The most worrying thing is that we have found that over 80,000 youths have been brainwashed and the cult has expanded and has over 100 branches in the country,'' Den said.

A member of the group was Serm Sakhonrat, a medical student who had been arrested and charged with murdering his former girlfriend, Den said.

He said the foundation had tried to seek approval to formally set up its church but had been rejected by the Religious Affairs Department after the it had consulted five major Christian organisations, including the Seventh Day Adventist of Thailand Church, the Baptist Church and the Council of Protestant Churches of Thailand.

Rubina Kraiwixian, secretary of the foundation, said yesterday that her foundation had been harassed by other groups out of jealousy.

She said it was not true that her church prohibited outsiders to come in as alleged by the House committee.

''My foundation has been set up legally and all government agencies, including the Interior Ministry, police, Religious Affairs Department, Office of National Cultural Board and National Intelligence Agency, have checked my foundation and found nothing wrong,'' she said.

An official of the Seventh Day Adventist Church said the church could not endorse the foundation because its teachings were not in line with the Bible.

''The Bible teaches us to respect our parents, not to ignore them,'' the official said.

PONGSAK BAI-NGERN

The Nation

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