A former Buddhist monk embroiled in a sex scandal is now facing embezzlement and extortion charges by the Anti-Corruption police.
The Commander of the Anti-Corruption Division Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaeo said on Friday that the charges against the disrobed monk would revolve around alleged embezzlement and extortion.
Phra Kato, formerly known as Pongsakorn Chankaeo, was acting abbot at Wat Pen Yat in the Chawang district of Nakhon Si Thammarat province before he was disgraced in a sex scandal.
It is likely that he will be charged with embezzling temple funds, Gen Charoonkiat said.
The former monk on Wednesday returned 600,000 baht (US$17,400) in cash to the temple, via an intermediary.
The temple’s bookkeeper said he withdrew the money from the temple bank account.
Buddhist monk confessed to scandal
In an earlier television interview, Pongsakorn confessed to giving half of the money to the woman with whom he had a sexual relationship, and the rest to a news reporter, via another monk.
He made the payments to conceal his affair with the 37-year-old woman.
Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said that while acting as abbot Pongsakorn committed a crime by using Temple money for personal gain.
It was his role as acting abbot that rendered him a government official who embezzled money, the police general said.
In addition to questioning people, police examined regulations regarding temple funds. Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said the prosecution would be decided within a few days if the former monk will be charged.
As well, a woman named “Tong,” he said, might also be questioned, as Phra Kato could have been a victim of extortion.
A monk, Phra Khru Winaithorn Suwichak Panyawaro, aka Phra Don, an assistant abbot at Wat Wang Tawan Ok in Nakhon Si Thammarat, was being sought by the authorities as well.
He is believed to be the middleman who offered to take the money to Tong and the reporter so that the sex scandal would be hidden.
An arrest warrant for Phra Don has already been issued for embezzlement. Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat claimed he failed to pay the money he withdrew for curtain repairs at his temple.
Following the leaked audio recording of a conversation about a secret sexual relationship between a woman and a monk, Pongsakorn left the monkhood last week.
According to reports, the monk and the woman were having sex in a car on the crest of the Kathoon dam in the Phiphun district of Nakhon Si Thammarat on several occasions.
Several local food and goods vendors have taken advantage of the spot, making it a local attraction.
During a phone-in interview with a TV program, Pongsakorn admitted to his misconduct over the past three months and to giving about 300,000 baht (US$8740) to the 37-year-old woman to end their controversial relationship, because she repeatedly demanded money.
Additionally, he reportedly paid a reporter 300,000 baht (US$8740) to keep quiet about the affair, but the money never reached the reporter.
Pongsakorn entered the monastic life in 2017 and gained a large following on Facebook and YouTube due to his entertaining teachings.
In his latest video posted on Facebook and Youtube, Pongsakorn apologized and asked for forgiveness. He said he planned to later sell wares online.