A self-proclaimed holy man whose followers allegedly worship corpses was arrested by the police in northeastern Thailand.
Followers of Thawee Nanra, 75, protested as their shirtless, white-bearded leader was led from a thatched house in the jungle of Chaiyaphum province into a police vehicle, officials said on Monday.
The police said they found 11 corpses, which are believed to be the bodies of some of Thawee’s followers. Officers also found coffins containing bodies.
Provincial Governor Kraisorn Kongchalad said at least 12 followers were residing with the leader when he was arrested. His followers told the authorities that Thawee’s bodily fluids, including his phlegm and urine, could cure diseases.
“It’s quite disturbing to see that there are people who believe in such superstition, but this is not only about a personal belief any more,” Kraisorn said. “We have dead bodies, and we will have to work with all agencies to establish facts surrounding these individuals.”
Authorities said Thawee managed the group undiscovered for more than four years because the location of his house was deep in the jungle.
Their existence was only found after the daughter of one of Thawee’s followers told a social media celebrity known for exposing unethical religious figures.
Thawee was charged with encroaching on a forest area and holding illegal gatherings prohibited under the disease control law established during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The leader was reportedly denied bail on Monday. Thawee faces other charges, including the unlawful possession and disposal of the bodies.