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KAMPHAENG PHET: A temple abbot was shot dead February 5 after one of his students mistook him for a chicken.

Phra Khru Silwachirakan, known to his followers as Luang Por Pheuan, the abbot of Wat Traiphum in Phrankratai district, was tending cattle belonging to the wat with three followers, Phra Pui, 27, Sanong Phobanlang, 37, and Buntham Phairoj, 54, when the incident occurred.

Phra Pui said that he was stood chatting with K. Sanong when he heard a gunshot. Buntham then ran up to them looking shocked and said that Luang Por Pheuan had been wounded.

The men rushed to the abbot, who was leaning against a tree, his robe covered in blood. The sturdy monk, however, insisted that he was ok and just asked for his friends to roll him a cigarette.

Phra Pui said that they set off driving the abbot to hospital, but the abbot died on route.

Maj Gen Thamnun Phetchburikul, commander of Kamphaeng Phet Provincial Police, ordered his officers to question Buntham about the incident.

Police said that at first, Buntham gave contradictory statements about how the shooting happened, but eventually confessed that he had accidentally shot the abbot.

Buntham told police that he had been walking in the woods with a 12-gauge shotgun, one of three shotguns donated to the wat, which the abbot liked to bring along when tending the cattle.

He heard a sound like a chicken scratching in the dirt and looked over to a tree stump and saw some movement in the bushes. Thinking that it must be a chicken, he opened fire, police said.

When he walked over to see what he had hit, he was shocked to find Luang Por Pheuan covered in blood.

Police said that Buntham would be held until they had collected evidence and decided what to charge him with.

Julaphan Thapthim, president of Kamphaeng Phet Provincial Administration Organization, said that Butham had been a pupil of Phra Khru Silwachirakan for many years.

Phra Khru Silwachirakan had been abbot of Wat Traiphum since 1990 and had declined the post of Tambon Dean so that he could remain abbot at the wat. He had many pupils in Prankratai District and everyone was very sorry to hear of his death, K. Julaphan said.