BANGKOK • A large machine allegedly found in the room where Dhammakaya Temple founder Phra Dhammachayo used to stay has been identified as a multi-million-baht hyperbaric chamber, sparking debate on social media that the device might be the reason for the fugitive Thai monk's well-preserved appearance.
The image of the machine went viral on social media following the police raid on Dhammakaya Temple last Wednesday in search of the former abbot, who has two arrest warrants issued against him.
Monks at the temple have claimed that the machine was used to treat the 72-year-old, reported the Bangkok Post.
According to an article on Mahidol University's website by trauma surgeon Supaporn Opasanon from the institution's Faculty of Medicine, the device is used in hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
The therapy involves breathing in pure oxygen in a pressurised space or via a tube to boost oxygen intake into a patient's body, the doctor said. This helps the patient to have better cell and capillary growth while his white blood cells have a higher capacity to destroy germs. Blood supply to organs improves, swelling is reduced and air bubbles in the blood supply are also reduced as a result.
Dr Supaporn said hyperbaric oxygen therapy is effective in treating chronic wounds from diabetes or radiation injuries, as well as serious infections and swelling of cells or bones.
Facebook user Wirangrong Dabbaransi said that a hyperbaric chamber costs 15 million baht ($607,340) and is used by cosmetic hospitals for rejuvenation treatments.
She speculated that the device might have been used to treat the monk's injured leg on a regular basis, meaning there was a higher chance he was still in the temple's sprawling Pathum Thani compound.
She urged the authorities to seize the device or seal the room it is kept in. "If you can't find Phra Dhammachayo, just follow the device and you will," she said.
Another Facebook user, Mr Channarong Daosuwan, commented that the machine should be seized and sent to a mid-sized rural hospital.
Meanwhile, the search for the elusive monk continues in a bizarre cat-and-mouse game that has led police officers through endless rooms and hallways in the sprawling 404ha temple grounds.
Last Thursday, police found a 1.5km secret tunnel - split into two routes - dug under the UFO-like temple that dominates the site. The tunnel may have been used by the ex-abbot as a place to hide.
THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE