Rogue monk defrocks self

Phuket Gazette, June 26, 2008

NONG KHAI, Thailand -- As every good clergyman knows, improper sexual conduct is a quick way to get defrocked – cast out of the Buddhist clergy.

Perhaps sensing that his own defrockment was inevitable, one naughty abbot in Tha Bor District decided to beat his detractors to the punch.

At a meeting of villagers and local religious authorities to discuss allegations of sexual impropriety against him, he showed his contempt by lifting up his robe and giving the assembled a good look at the organ that had got him in trouble in the first place.

The problem stemmed from the alleged relationship between Phra Wanchai Mahapanyo, 35, abbot of Wat Khok Klang in Tambon Nakha, and a married devotee, 44-year-old Lampang Khambai.

Lampang’s husband, 43-year-old Wichai Khambai, told police that he and Lampang have been married for almost 20 years and that they have two children together.

They never had any problems in their marriage until last year, when Wichai went to work on a construction site in Bangkok, he told police.

When he came back to Nakha, friends and relatives told him that while he had been away, his wife was rarely at home and seemed to spend nearly all of her time in Phra Wanchai’s room.

At first Wichai didn’t believe what people were telling him, he said. However, late one night, Lampang asked if she could go to the temple, which made him suspicious. A couple of days later, on May 29, Lampang again asked if she could go and visit the temple in the evening.

When it became late and she was still not back, Wichai decided to take action.

He gathered up a posse of friends and relatives, who took up positions around Phra Wanchai’s room in the temple to see what was going on.

Nothing happened until dawn, when Phra Wanchai emerged from his cell. Wichai rushed up to him, demanding to know the whereabouts of his wife.

Phra Wanchai denied having seen her that night and, according to Wichai, then pushed him out of the way and punched him in the face.

Wichai’s friends rushed in to break up the scuffle, at which point Lampang strolled out of the monk’s room as if nothing at all was amiss.

As often happens in small Thai villages, news of the incident spread quickly.

Before long, the kamnan (tambon chief) of Nakha, Phemphun Meuncharoen, and the local dean, Phrakhru Praphatson Praphatsaro, rushed to the scene to invite all concerned to a meeting at the house of Lampang’s mother, Noolee Burikham.

The villagers unanimously called for Phra Wanchai to be defrocked on the spot for his behavior, at which point the abbot suddenly stood up, lifted up his robes and waggled his genitals around in the startled faces of his accusers.

Being a media-savvy village, many of those present whipped out mobile phones to get photos and videos of the scene. With the shocking incident duly recorded in digital format, Phra Wanchai fled the room and sped off in his pickup truck.

Wichai, still smarting from his confrontation with Phra Wanchai, reported the altercation at the Tha Bor Police Station, where he filed a complaint accusing the abbot of assault.

At about 2 pm that afternoon, Phra Wanchai turned himself in at the station and admitted to punching Wichai in the face. He was fined 1,000 baht and released.

Villagers also filed complaints to the local Sangha authorities, who have launched an investigation into Phra Wanchai’s conduct.

The following day, the images of Phra Wanchai appeared on the front page of the country’s top-selling newspaper, Thai Rath, the editorial staff of which chose to blur out the offending organ.