Two males suspected in thefts at Buddhist temple

by Jeremy Pawloski, The Olympian, March 29, 2007

OLYMPIA, WA (USA) -- The founder of a Buddhist temple on Wilson Street and a monk who lives there say they feel sorry for the people suspected of burglarizing the temple Tuesday.

“It’s unfortunate, but it must be someone very desperate to need money,” said temple founder Son Tran. “As Buddhists, we view this event with compassion. ... We don’t have any hatred or anger toward this event.”

Two men are suspected of pilfering the contents of the collection box at the Lien Hoa Temple at 1211 Wilson St. on Tuesday, as well as breaking the lock to monk Ngan Le’s room at the temple and stealing $400 and a wallet containing his identification, green card and visa.

The suspects came to the temple Tuesday afternoon and told Le and Tran that they were interested in learning more about Buddhism and its teachings, Tran said. One of the suspects said his name was Mark and that he was from Portland.

The suspects were left alone in a room at the temple because Tran and Le thought the two were going to speak with one of the English-speaking monks to learn more about Buddhism. Tran and Le both speak Vietnamese as a first language.

When Le returned to his room later in the day, the lock on his door had been picked, and the room was ransacked, he said. Le said he is worried about losing his green card and identification because he doesn’t know if it will have an adverse effect on his pending application for U.S. citizenship.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to the burglary around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. As of Wednesday night, no arrests had been made in the case.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact Thurston County Crime Stoppers at 360-493-2222.

The Lien Hoa Temple opened in 1989, Tran said. He said Tuesday’s burglary is the third at the temple in the past 10 years. During the most recent burglary two or three years ago, a couple of Buddha statues were destroyed, and graffiti was left on the temple’s walls, he said.

Tran said he moved to Olympia from Vietnam about 25 years ago.