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Multi-million baht hyperbaric chamber in monk's room sparks rumours

Netizens speculate hyperbaric chamber found in fugitive Phra Dhammachayo's room is reason for his well-preserved appearance

BANGKOK: Monks and police scuffled yesterday at a Buddhist temple in Thailand where security forces are trying to arrest an influential former abbot on money-laundering charges.

The stand-off at the scandal-hit Dhammakaya temple represents one of the biggest challenges to the authority of Thailand's junta since it took power in 2014.

Police said they would try to avoid violence while threatening arrest for followers of the sprawling temple who have defied orders to leave and instead flocked there, hampering the search for Phra Dhammachayo.

While the stand-off continues, a large machine allegedly found in the room where Dhammachayo used to stay has been identified as a multi-million baht hyperbaric chamber, sparking debate on social media that the device might 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 last Wednesday in search of the former abbot, who has two arrest warrants issued against him.

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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, Dr Supaporn Opasanon from its 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 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.

Dhammachayo is believed to have a blood clot in his leg and diabetes.

Facebook user Wirangrong Dabbaransi commented that a hyperbaric chamber costs 15 million baht (S$610,000), and is used by cosmetic hospitals for rejuvenation treatments.

She speculated that the device might have been used to treat the monk's leg on a regular basis, meaning there was a higher chance he was still in the temple's sprawling compound.

She urged authorities to seize the device or seal the room it is in, adding "if you can't find Dhammachayo, just follow the device and you will".

Facebook user Channarong Daosuwan also said the machine should be seized, and sent to a rural hospital.

The search for the elusive monk continues in a bizarre cat-and-mouse game that has led police officers through endless rooms and hallways. - THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AFP, REUTERS

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