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Buddha Isara denies encroaching on reserved forest


Activist monk Phra Buddha Isara has denied an allegation that he has encroached on a reserved forest in Chiang Mai province, but admitted to buying the land from encroachers with a good intention.
The abbot of Wat Or Noy in Nakhon Pathom province said he planned to rehabilitate the land and return it to the Royal Forest Department later.
The land, a source of streams in the area, is allegedly in the reserved forest in Ban Mai Wang Pha Pun village, tambon Mae Win of Chiang Mai’s Mae Wang district.
The allegation, with pictures claimed to be of the land, had been posted in social media.
The abbot said his Dhamma Buddha Isara Foundation and Prueksavej Company, which produces herbal medicines for his temple, had asked villagers who had encroached the land to hand it over to the foundation.
The encroachers, most of them teachers and government officials, were paid altogether 3 million baht for the 300-rai plot, not 3,000 rai as alleged, according to a Daily News report.
After that, with cooperation from the Forest Department, villagers and school children planted trees on the land.
“An agreement has been made with the Royal Forest Department that the forest land and nature will be rehabilitated for His Majesty the King. After 10 years, the land will be returned to the Royal Forest Department,” said Phra Buddha Isara.
The monk admitted the land was part of a reserved forest without any land rights documents.
Two video clips were posted on the monk’s Facebook page on Tuesday to support the claims.
One showed him giving a speech when he presided over the reforestation in Mae Wang district on June 29, 2014.
The other shows the abbot persuading people to help conserve forests, water and nature. It also showed him demonstrating to students how to plant seedlings.
Phra Buddha Isara is one of the core leaders of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee whose anti-government protests eventually led to the toppling of the Yingluck Shinawatra administration in 2014.

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