Buddhist abbots expelled from monkhood after drinking binge

By Kyle Lawrence Mullin, Asian Correspondent, Mar 23, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand -- Buddhist monks may have a reputation for being meek, mild mannered, and nothing less than well behaved. But two abbots defied that stereotype in Sikhiu district in Thailand on Sunday, after a bout of drunk driving led to a car accident and the pair’s subsequent expulsion from their monasteries.

The Bangkok Post reported that police arrived at the scene of the accident at 7am and found 60-year-old Phra Thewet Sadhammo, a monk of Wat Nong Jok, behind the wheel of a car stuck in a ditch that was being towed with a rope by another car. The second vehicle’s driver was identified as 48-year-old Phra Somchai Engchantuak of the nearby Wat Thoongpanomwang temple.

The article added that Pol Lt Col Samart Rattanawichai said both monks were so intoxicated that they could hardly stand straight, and that their blood alcohol levels were four times over the legal limit of 0.05 percent. He added that they were wearing layman’s clothing, instead of their traditional robs.

The monks admitted to meeting at a restaurant earlier that night, where they had drank until 5am before attempting to drive back to their monasteries. Phra Thewet also conceded to losing control of his vehicle.

Supachai Luangchantuak, chairman of the Mittraparb Tambon Administration Organisation, said both monks were notorious for their drinking, noting that whiskey bottles had been found at their temples, and that they had seemed inebriated at several religious ceremonies, where they flubbed the lines of their prayers. He told the Post  that”villagers were fed up with (the) behaviour” of these infamous “drinking buddies.”

This is far from the first incidence of misbehaving monks in Thailand. This past November the same newspaper reported that the abbot of Surat Thani temple ran his pickup truck off the road, and he was charged with driving while under the influence.

More recently, on March 2, ThaiVisa News reported that  an abbot at Kamphaeng Phet was defrocked for not only drinking but also attempting to rape a nun.

World Religion News ran a March 5 article entitled ‘Thai Buddhists Fed Up with Disobedient Monks’. The piece went on to describe an abbot that had been caught with 100,000 methamphetamine pills, another that had been arrested for wildlife trafficking and attempted to flee the scene while driving drunk, and a senior monk at Wat Sa Ket monastery for embezzling the temple’s funds. The article ended on a dire note: “Many devout Buddhists have become so frustrated that they have stopped considering themselves practicing Buddhists.”