Police prepare charges in abbot's sex scandal case

Police prepare charges in abbot's sex scandal case

Pongsakorn Chankaeo, better known as Phra Kato, apologises to his fans for his sexual misconduct during his time in the monkhood. (Photo supplied)
Pongsakorn Chankaeo, better known as Phra Kato, apologises to his fans for his sexual misconduct during his time in the monkhood. (Photo supplied)

Police will bring charges against a former acting abbot embroiled in a sex scandal, a monk who offered to cover it up and the woman involved.

Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaeo, commander of the Anti-Corruption Division, said on Friday the charges would centre on alleged embezzlement and extortion. 

The disgraced former monk is Pongsakorn Chankaeo, 23, who was previously known as Phra Kato and was the acting abbot at Wat Pen Yat in Chawang district of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

He is likely to be charged with embezzling temple funds. 

Mr Pongsakorn on Wednesday returned 600,000 baht in cash to the temple, via an intermediary. The temple management said he withdrew the money from the temple bank account.

Mr Pongsakorn admitted in an earlier television interview that he gave half the sum to the woman with whom he had a sexual liaison, and the balance to a news reporter, via another monk. The payments were  aimed at covering up his affair with the 37-year-old woman.

Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said that while acting abbot Mr Pongsakorn had committed crime by usig its money for personal purposes. As acting abbot he was considered to be a government official who embezzled the money, the commander said.

Police were questioning people and checking regulations on the management of temple funds. They would conclude in a few days who should be prosecuted, Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said.

He also said that the woman, identified only as "Tong", might also be questioned because Phra Kato could be a victim of extortion.

Meanwhile, police were searching for another monk, Phra Khru Winaithorn Suwichak Panyawaro, aka Phra Don, an assistant abbot at Wat Wang Tawan Ok in Nakhon Si Thammarat. He is the alleged middleman who offered to take the money to Tong and the reporter, to cover up the sex scandal.

Phra Don was already wanted under an arrest warrant for embezzlement. He allegedly failed to pay money he withdrew for curtain repairs at his temple, Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat said.

Mr Pongsakorn left the monkhood last Saturday following the leaking of an audio recording of a conversation about a secret sexual relationship between a woman and a monk. The leak led to reports that the monk had sex on several occasions with the woman in a car on the crest of Kathoon dam in Phiphun district of Nakhon Si Thammarat. The spot has since become a local attraction, to the delight of  local vendors.

During a phone-in interview with a TV programme host, Mr Pongsakorn admitted to his misconduct over the past three months and to giving about 300,000 baht to the 37-year-old woman to end their controversial relationship, after she made repeated demands for money.

There were also reports that he paid another 300,000 baht to a reporter to keep quiet about the affair but the money did not reach a reporter. 

Mr Pongsakorn entered the monkhood in 2017 and had many followers, attracted by his entertaining way of teaching Buddhism over social media.

In his latest video posted online, he apologised and asked his followers to forgive him. He said he planned to later sell wares online.

Do you like the content of this article?

Casino workers flee Cambodia by swimming to Vietnam

Dozens of Vietnamese casino workers allegedly forced to toil without pay in Cambodia have fled back to their homeland by swimming across a river, authorities in Phnom Penh said on Friday.

19 Aug 2022

Myanmar junta may talk to Suu Kyi ... after her trial

Myanmar’s military chief said on Friday the junta is open to negotiations with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end the crisis sparked by its coup — after her trials in a junta-run court have concluded.

19 Aug 2022

Rajapaksa seeks safety guarantee from Colombo

Deposed former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is seeking to return home from his exile in Thailand and has asked his successor to guarantee his safety, his party said on Friday.

19 Aug 2022