Police in the far northeast of Thailand will look into whether the followers of an abbot who beheaded himself with a DIY guillotine last week should be prosecuted for aiding his attempt at attaining enlightenment.
Maj. Niphon Panitcharoen of Nong Bua Lamphu Police said yesterday that those who moved, cleaned, and burned Dhammakorn Wangphrecha’s body could be charged with the crime of concealing a corpse despite clear evidence that his actions last week amounted to suicide.
When local police arrived Thursday to the Wat Phuhingong Monastery in Nong Bua Lamphu province, they found the 68-year-old abbot’s body already placed in a wooden coffin, with the guillotine already disassembled. Niphon said those involved may have violated a law requiring that the police be called and the scene left untouched after an abnormal death occurs. Doing otherwise – as well as anyone who helped Dhammakorn build and dismantle the crude execution device – could be guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
The police did not indicate how many possible suspects they were investigating, but an estimated 300 people attended the funeral hastily arranged hours after his death.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, a man so superstitious that he wears many “magic” amulets under his shirts and uniforms, said people should not believe things that can’t be proved.
“I ask you to not put too much faith in something unscientific, as the Buddha taught that his words can be proved,” Gen. Prayuth said. “Everybody must have some logic to believing or respecting something. I don’t think anybody wants to imitate [a beheading by guillotine]”
Local psychiatrists reportedly went to the monastery along with cops Monday to check on the mental health of people there and in the community.
Dhammakorn’s followers said that he had spent five years planning his death in the belief that it would hasten his attainment of nirvana. He was well-regarded locally, and locals said they weren’t surprised when, early Thursday on his birthday – he cut ropes holding up two cement-filled buckets to bring a meter-long blade down onto his neck. The guillotine had been erected just a few steps from a statue of Indra kneeling in supplication to offer his decapitated head with outstretched arms.
The National Buddhism Office said the matter is in the hands of the police, saying it has no ecclesiastical recourse because Dhammakorn resigned from the monkhood just before beheading himself. Office spokesperson Sipbowon Kaeo-ngam added that they have no authority over the monastery as it is on military land and not legally registered.