Thai police have arrested a cult leader whose followers allegedly worship corpses and consume bodily fluids after 11 bodies were discovered in a raid.
Thawee Nanra supporters shouted and shoved officers as the white-haired, bearded, shirtless man was led towards a police vehicle at his home deep in the jungles of Chaiyaphum province.
Police said they found 11 bodies at the 75-year-old’s premises and local media said they were believed to be the bodies of his supporters.
Provincial Governor Kraisorn Kongchalad said Thawee had at least a dozen supporters living with him and coffins containing bodies were strewn around the house.
Devotees reportedly told authorities that the chief’s urine and phlegm were believed to be cures for illnesses.
Mr Kraisorn said he was shocked to learn that such practices continued in the modern era.
“It’s quite disturbing to see that there are people who believe in such a superstition,” he said.
“But this is no longer just a personal belief. We have dead bodies and will need to work with all agencies to establish the facts surrounding these individuals.”
While Thailand’s population is predominantly Buddhist, many people have beliefs outside of religion, including worship of local spirits and fear of ghosts.
Authorities believe the group existed for more than four years without anyone noticing because the location of the chief’s house was in a remote forest area, far from other communities.
But their anonymity ended quickly after a daughter of one of the followers complained to a social media celebrity who seeks to expose unscrupulous religious figures.
Thawee was initially charged with encroaching on a forest area – as his house would be on public land – and unlawful gatherings prohibited by COVID laws.
Police said they are looking into other charges, including unlawful disposal of the body.
He was denied bail on Monday, according to local media.
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