Cops crack down on cult for ‘traffic violations’

Mainichi Daily News (Japan), May 1, 2003

Japan’s police force on Thursday cracked down on a cult that has occupied a stretch of road in Gifu Prefecture because its white-clad members are acting similarly to “AUM Shinrikyo” cultists, officials said.

Hidehiko Sato, head of the National Police Agency (NPA), said that he had told prefectural police departments across Japan to closely watch the Panawave Laboratory cult.

“They look strange and resemble members of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult in its initial stage,” Sato told reporters.

When the local police urged about 40 members of the cult squatting with their vehicles parked on a section of road in Gifu Prefecture to leave, they cited the Road Traffic Law rather than other legal rules, as they had not carried out any subversive acts in the area.

“But we will deal with them severely if they do something illegal,” said Sato.

Under the Road Traffic Law, drivers must park their vehicles on the left side of the road with a space more than 3.5 meters on the right. But the local police said Panawave Laboratory members had violated the regulations.

Members reportedly began removing their cars Thursday night.

The cult is based in Fukui where it has since October last year occupied a section of road that is closed during the winter. When the winter closure was lifted, Fukui Prefecture officials told them to leave, resulting in the members’ arrival at the Hachiman-Yamato site on April 25.

They covered guardrails and trees in the area with white cloths claiming it was necessary to protect themselves from harmful electromagnetic waves.

When the Hachiman and Yamato mayors told them to leave the area on Wednesday, the cult members refused their request and said they would leave on Saturday.

In Oizumi, Yamanashi Prefecture, Panawave Laboratory members are constructing two dome-shaped structures and plan to move there, causing local officials and residents in Yamanashi to feel uneasy.

Since construction of the domes began sometime around February this year, the site has been often visited by apparent members of the cult, local sources said.

When a Mainichi reporter tried to talk with one of them Wednesday, he said, “I have been ordered from above to say nothing.”

Oizumi Mayor Susumu Yamada said that his municipality could do nothing about the structures because cult members had done nothing illegal.

“Honestly, I feel quite worried,” Yamada said.

(Compiled from Mainichi and wire stories, May 1, 2003)

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