The cult temple has yet to be excavated, no sign of ‘Phra Bida’

On Wednesday, officials from relevant agencies searched a temple of the sect in Khon San district of Chaiyaphum province, but found no trace of the sect leader. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)

CHAIYAPHUM: Authorities on Wednesday continued to raid a temple of worship in Khon San district in the absence of the so-called ‘Phra Bida’, or spiritual father, whose bizarre treatments for illness included drinking his urine and his skin to his disciples.

Eleven corpses, believed to be followers of the sect, were found at the scene during the first search on Monday.

Provincial deputy governor Charnchai Sornsriwichai led police, soldiers, health and local officials to search the temple – a thatched-roof house deep in the jungle in Tambon Dong Klang of Khon San district. of this northeastern province.

They were armed with a search warrant issued by the Phu Khieo Provincial Court.

Sect leader Tawee Nanra, 74, nicknamed Phra Bida by his supporters, was not there.

He was released on 50,000 bail on Monday by his 62-year-old brother Thongthip Nanra after officials raided the temple and took him away. The Phu Khieo court is said to have set June 27 for his next appearance.

This followed reports that the cult leader was preaching superstition and strange treatments that his followers claim could cure all illnesses. Eleven bodies were discovered during the raid.

Police initially brought four charges against Mr Tawee – trespassing on public land, breaching the Medicine Act, illegally transporting dead bodies and holding gatherings made illegal under the Emergency Order.

TV reports said his followers drank his urine and skin to cure the disease. Some media reported that the treatments consisted of telling his followers to drink his urine, feces and skin for around 20 years. (continued below)

Reporters and photographers swarm the cult leader’s home in Chaiyaphum province as authorities continue to search the area. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)

Officials were split into two teams to search the premises on Wednesday, the second day of their search for evidence of wrongdoing.

A team examined earthenware pots and vessels that had been found earlier. These pots contained what followers claimed was holy water used to scrub bodies as part of treatments. Officials said the water in the jars and containers smelled foul and contained bones, old flower garlands and animal skulls.

The other team inspected an area used for food production. They found fermented fish, dried squid and rice crackers without a Food and Drug Administration approval label. Followers of the cult leader were seen carrying these products in a van to sell them at stalls in villages in Khon San and neighboring areas.

Officials seized the goods for further examination. They also examined a cow pen, a fish pond and an area where 15 Rusa deer were kept.

Mr Charnchai said the thatched house and other structures would be dismantled over the next 7 to 10 days. People staying there would have time to move.

During the search, some supporters were seen packing up and leaving the area.

Local police were still gathering evidence before deciding whether to bring additional charges against the cult leader, Mr Charnchai said.

After Mr Tawee was released on bail by the Phu Khieo court on Monday, Chaiyaphum Governor Kraisorn Kongchalad said around 10 supporters came looking for him. He didn’t know where they had taken him.

The cult leader’s older brother Boontan Nanra, 77, said that after his younger brother Thongthip paid Mr Tawee’s bail, he did not return to his home in Khon Kaen. He wasn’t worried. His brother Tawee’s many supporters would take good care of him. He could be in Udon Thani or Maha Sarakham, he said.

Eleven bodies found at the cult temple on Monday, bagged and taken for autopsies. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)