Disgraced Monk Banned from Preaching in Prison

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Wirapol Sukphol, the disgraced former monk now behind bars, has been banned from doing what he did best when he wore the saffron robes – preaching.

Charges: 

  • Raping 15-year-old girl
  • Child abduction
  • Public fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Computer crime

Lies: 

  • Reincarnation of famous monk
  • Talk to deities
  • Walk on water
  • See into future
  • Immune to cobra venom

Excesses: 

  • Branded luxury goods such as LV bag
  • Private jet rides
  • 70 luxury cars, including Porsche and 22 Mercedes

Estimated loot: one billion baht (US$32m)

Reuters

Bangkok Remand Prison chief Krit Krasaethip on Friday ordered Wirapol to refrain from teaching Dhamma to other inmates during his detention at the prison in Chatuchak district.

There was a risk Wirapol could use his well-known preaching skills to persuade other prisoners to do as he wanted, Krit said. The former monk is allowed, however, to attend daily religious activities such as morning and evening prayers.

Wirapol was forced to disrobe by officials of the National Office of Buddhism and to change into civilian clothes shortly after he returned to Thailand from the United States on Wednesday while still wearing a monk’s robe.

He had set up a Buddhist teaching centre in Southern California, where he claimed to have received refugee status since he fled Thailand in 2013. He was expelled from the monkhood in absentia in the same year.

United States authorities began the extradition process after receiving a request from its Thai counterparts in May.

He faces five charges, one of them being statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl for which he faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted. The other charges are child abduction, public fraud, money laundering and computer crime.

Two other counts against him relating to abducting and sexually assaulting a minor expired under statutory limitations last year.

It was reported that prosecutors will demand Wiraphol return 28 million baht to his 29 victims.

He headed a monastery in Sisaket province where he enjoyed a following of wealthy and influential people. Styling himself as a magical monk, he was given large sums of money and luxury goods.

Wirapol denied all charges against him and did not apply for bail.

He spent his first night behind bars at Bangkok Remand Prison on Thursday after prosecutors filed their indictments against him at the Criminal Court.

He showed no signs of stress, probably because he was prepared to be in this situation, the prison chief said.

Wirapol, 38, was famous for his persuasive preaching and his claims of supernatural powers when he was the abbot of the Khantitham forest monastery in Sisaket province.

Although he was a young monk at the time, he acted as a senior monk by adopting the name Luang Pu Nen Kham to portray himself as a reincarnation of a famous monk who performed miracles, and to justify his seniority he counted his age from the past life.

Investigators have claimed that Wirapol made his followers believe his claims that he could talk to deities, walk on water and see into the future. He had reportedly said that he was immune to cobra venom.

Despite the vows he took to lead a life of celibacy and simplicity, he had a taste for luxury and was even photographed counting a thick wad of banknotes while on a private jet.

For years prior to his extradition, Thailand’s infamous jet-setting fugitive monk riveted the country with headlines of lavish excess and promiscuity.

His lavish lifestyle first came to light with a viral YouTube video. It showed the orange-robed monk in aviator sunglasses taking a private jet ride with a Louis Vuitton carry-on.

His lavish lifestyle first came to light with a viral YouTube video. It showed the orange-robed monk in aviator sunglasses taking a private jet ride with a Louis Vuitton carry-on.

The video sparked criticism of his unbecoming behaviour and a stream of mocking headlines like, “Now boarding, Air Nirvana”.

Since then, a long list of darker secrets has emerged – including his accumulated assets of an estimated one billion baht (US$32 million).

Authorities had previously pointed out during a shopping spree from 2009 to 2011, Wirephon bought 22 Mercedes worth 95 million baht (US$3.1 million).

The fleet of luxury cars was among 70 vehicles he bought in those two years. Some he gave as gifts to senior monks, others he sold off as part of a suspected black market car business to launder his money.

Authorities in Thailand recently seized US$770,000 of his assets, including a Porsche and a Mercedes Benz, as well as 41 bank accounts.

Even more incriminating were accusations of multiple sexual relationships with women – a cardinal sin for monks who are not allowed to touch women. Among them was a then 15-year-old girl with whom he allegedly had a son. The mother filed a statutory rape case against him.

His case is part of a series of high-profile scandals that have rocked Thailand’s Buddhist clergy in recent years. Other examples include monks caught for dealing drugs and some who were defrocked for sexual relations with followers as well as other behaviours seen as immoral.