In Thailand, it Takes a Village —and Then Some—to Expand a Temple


March 4, 2024


News, Religion




(BAN KHAM KHAEN SO, KHON KAEN, Thailand) – To finish a stalled temple expansion, Wichai Chiwatthanaprapha, the village chief, traveled to Bangkok last week, raising enough money to complete the project and cover additional expenses.

“We have more than enough, thanks to [families],” Chiwatthanaprapha said.

Si Sit Temple, this village’s only Buddhist place of worship, is getting a much-needed upgrade. Expected to take just two months, the effort was running behind and over budget by early February.

Announced in November of 2023, the improvements were supposed to take two months to complete and cost 115,000 baht ($3,230). Village donations were requested, and builders from the village were contracted. Work began in November, and major construction was expected to be complete by mid-February until, that is, the money ran out.

The last upgrade to the temple was more than 10 years ago. The community has since outgrown the space, with more than 1,000 residents. In Thailand, 92% of the population is Theravada Buddhist, the denomination Si Sit serves.

The new layout adds a commercial kitchen to serve hundreds of people and space for dozens of cooks. Space for seating, congregating, and vendor stalls will replace a previously unkept wooded area. Chiwatthanaprapha calls it “a place to cook and be together on important religious days or festivals.”

The expanded temple will include a 255-square-meter pond for festivals like Loy Katong and the Thai New Year, which call for water in ceremonies like floating ritualistic lotus flowers or pouring water on the Buddha.

Every household in Ban Kham Khaen So, including this reporter, was asked to contribute to the fund, and a list was kept. Villagers here and others working in Taiwan, Korea, and Bangkok sent money. So far, the expansion has cost the average household 400 baht, the equivalent of two monthly water bills or more than a day’s pay. Some villagers supported construction by volunteering their labor or cooking food for workers.

On Feb. 18, Supot Sujenmoon, the temple’s head monk, said construction had not stopped, but money had run out. “The village boss is going to Bangkok to get more money from his family to finish it,” he said.

In a Feb. 25 message, Chiwatthanaprapha confirmed receipt of a final donation from his family living in Bangkok, exceeding shortfalls. He added that excess contributions would address unforeseen challenges or refinements to the project.

Despite the delays, Sri Sit Temple is expected to open its new space for the Thai New Year in April.

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