SAMUT PRAKAN — The abbot of a temple dating to the late Ayutthaya period said his choice to remodel the site with industrial material was practical and in accordance with his philosophy of Buddhism.
Phra Kru Kosonpattaporn, the abbot of Wat Bang Duan Nok defended his decision on the same day a conservationist filed a complaint to the government’s culture ministry over the renovation, which saw the structure paved over with floor tiles
“The ordination hall was breaking down, waiting for the day it would collapse,” he said. “If we didn’t restore it, then the roof, four walls, then Buddha image would collapse, leaving only ruins and the base the Buddha was on. Do you want that?”
The abbot said the restoration, whose fund of 20 million came from donations, already cost 7 million baht and was still incomplete. He said the temple was in such disrepair that his relatives advised him to renovate.
“Where were the historical conservationists then?” he asked. “Everyone is cheering me on to quickly finish it.”
Espousing Buddhist thought, the abbot said that the remodeled architecture was just a physical “outer shell” but that the “core” of the temple, or a Black Buddha statue dating back from the Ayutthaya period, would be preserved.
However, the smaller black statues of Buddha disciples which had flanked the Buddha image were removed.
“My job is to transform abandoned temples into thriving ones,” he said. “I’m a conservationist, not a destroyer. If your hand was diseased but you wanted to keep your body, what do you do? Cut off your hand.
Conservationist Wara Chanmanee posted scathing remarks about the temple Tuesday after he visited it to find that most of the temple’s architectural and historical significance had been removed or remodelled without any recognition to its root.
On Wednesday, Wara met with the culture minister Ittipol Khunpluem to present a complaint over the work at the temple, as well as a 120-year-old trading post in Phrae, and an old temple painted shocking pink – all of which he said was a botched attempt to restore historical sites.
Wara said by phone Wednesday that his proposals of pressing criminal charges against those who destroy landmarks of historical values were met with excuses.
“They accepted my complaint as per custom, but they gave the same old excuse that they don’t have the time, funds, or manpower,” Wara said. “They can use the same excuse for the next 50, 100 years. I don’t have much hope.”