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Thai Police Arrest Armed Buddhist Monk - 2002-05-22

Thai police have arrested an armed Buddhist monk after he stormed Parliament Wednesday and took dozens of hostages. No one was hurt in the incident.

A monk who identified himself as Sayan Chitasuro entered the Thai parliament building hiding an AK-47 assault rifle under his satchel early Wednesday morning.

He then took up to 30 hostages and demanded to speak to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Using a reporter's mobile phone, the monk said over a live television and radio broadcast that he had been arrested in 1996 for trespassing in a forest in Chanthaburi, 319 kilometers east of Bangkok.

The distraught monk said police had beat and stripped him during his two- day incarceration and that he had complained of his ordeal to government agencies, but no action had been taken against the police. Mr. Sayan, who was dressed in a traditional saffron robe, said he had come to Parliament to hand over a petition and to discuss his case with the prime minister.

Mr. Sayan fired his rifle in the air once during his one hour standoff, but no one was injured.

Two policemen posing as reporters were able to disarm the monk and handcuff him before his arrest. Darunee Muangsuk, from the prime minister's office says better security is needed at Parliament to prevent future incidents. "Normally something always happens to call attention during the Parliament opening so something can happen there. But the person in charge or the policeman in charge have to reinforce the law strictly," Ms. Muangsuk said. Police say the monk faces charges of illegal weapon possession, illegal detention, and breaking into a government office. Authorities confirm Mr. Sayan was registered as a monk in a Buddhist temple in Chanthaburi province.

The incident took place right before the 500 elected members of the lower house of Parliament were set to debate a no confidence motion against 15 members of the government.