Police boost efforts to end temple thefts nationwide

Police are boosting efforts to suppress and prevent burglaries at temples nationwide after five cases of theft were reported this month.

One case took place on Feb 10 at Wat Khao Din in tambon Thanu of Ayutthaya’s Uthai district.

Gas cylinders, brass ornaments, electrical appliances, sound machines, and even a metal sieve used in the temple’s crematorium chamber were stolen from the temple.

Thieves cut off the temple’s CCTV to prevent police tracking them.

The temple has been broken into several times recently, upsetting monks and villagers.

Speaking during an inspection of Wat Khao Din, Uthai police deputy superintendent Manaswet Thong-im said burglars had made off with various valuable items from the temple over the past three months.

“Police are taking the case seriously,” he said, adding that investigators have obtained several leads which might help them locate the suspects after questioning monks and temple committee members.

Pol Lt Col Manaswet said police believe teenage drug addicts or believers in the supernatural could be behind the thefts.

The latter group is under suspicion due to the theft of cremation sieves, which could be used in ritual ceremonies.

The string of burglaries at the temple prompted involvement from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD).

More than 50 police commando officers, led by CSD deputy commander Chaithat Boomkham, showed up at Wat Khao Din on Friday to pay respects to temple chief Phra Kru Uthai Kijjarak and discuss ways to track down the perpetrators.

Pol Col Athip Thaennil, commander of the CSD’s Special Forces Unit, said the unit will work with local police to investigate burglary cases in temples nationwide.

Wat Khao Din will serve as the police’s pilot study for sustainable crime prevention, he said. Locals will be encouraged to help protect the temple from further thefts.

Pol Col Athip said the campaign will focus on surveillance, access control, territorial reinforcement maintenance and management.

He said the thefts took place at the temple in both daytime and nighttime. Perpetrators had stolen Buddha images, joss stick pots and brass items.

Eighteen CCTV cameras were installed to look out for thieves.

However, the CCTV failed to prevent the burglars from carrying out the latest theft on Feb 10.

Phra Kru Uthai Kijjarak told police that Wat Khao Din is situated less than a kilometre from the Asian Highway and with several routes leading to the temple, leaving it vulnerable to burglary.

He said the temple had filed complaints over the thefts, but no progress had been made. He urged the police to quickly arrest the perpetrators.

On Feb 5, police were alerted to a donation box that was left abandoned on the side of the irrigation canal in Saraburi’s Muang district.

The wrecked donation box belonged to Wat Kang Kanun, about 10km from where it was found. Police said the box was stolen from the temple earlier that morning.

On Feb 15, police received a complaint from Wat Song Kon Nua in Kaeng Khoi district of Saraburi that 20,000 baht had been stolen from the temple’s donation box.

Three days later, burglars broke into the sermon hall of Wat Leap in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Muang district, making off with valuables, including audio equipment worth 100,000 baht.

The latest case happened on Tuesday at Wat Prathat Cheungchum Voraviharn in Sakon Nakhon’s Muang district where money was stolen from a donation box.

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