Wirapol visited exec jet showroom in US

Defrocked Buddhist monk Nen Kham's love affair with the high life was so intense he once set his sights on owning a US-made Cessna executive jet for his personal use.

Defrocked Buddhist monk Nen Kham is taken a picture while sitting in a plane.

Officially a layman as of last week, ex-monk Wirapol Sukphol, 34, flew from his California home a few months before Thailand's great flood in 2011 to the Cessna Aircraft Company's Wichita facility in Kansas to inspect and test a CJ4, sources said.

The twin-jet private aircraft, which is capable of seating eight passengers and has a range of 3,555 kilometres, carries a basic price tag of US$9.05 million (281 million baht).

Industry insiders said the ex-monk was keen to have the CJ4 after developing a fondness for flying privately on chartered business jets for trips around Thailand and neighbouring countries.

Over the past few years, the former monk made more than 20 trips, mostly in Thailand, on chartered business jets operated by local firms that charged him about 250,000 baht a trip.

The other Cessna aircraft Mr Wirapol looked at during his Wichita visit was a cheaper and less capable Cessna Grand Caravan turboprop, which typically seats nine passengers with a single pilot, for short-haul flights.

Sources quoted Mr Wirapol as saying money was not an issue for the aircraft purchase and he was prepared to pay for it in cash, the same method by which he always settled jet charter bills.

Before his tour of the Cessna facility, he asked other Thai jet charter companies to look for a private jet for him for his sermon trips, which regularly required him to travel from his Si Sa Ket monastery.

However, no order for the Cessna aircraft was finally placed.

Insiders said private jet chartering for a Thai monk is rare and most local clients are business owners, executives and wealthy personalities or gamblers flying to overseas casino resorts such as Genting in Malaysia and Macau.

The disgraced former monk has been charged on three criminal counts by the Department of Special Investigation _ alleged rape of a minor; fraud; and false advertising on the internet by claiming he had an audience with the deity Indra.

Related search: Nen Kham, Wirapol Sukphol, monk, Thai monk

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Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business