Thai authorities eyes arrest of ex-monk

THAILAND - The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) will today consider whether to seek a warrant for the arrest of the jet-setting former monk known as Luang Pu Nenkham for alleged statutory rape and money laundering.

A warrant could lead to the extradition of the monk - also known as Phra Wirapol Sukpol - who is believed to be living in the United States and has refused to return to Thailand as long as there is "no justice" for him.

The DSI move came after Si Sa Ket's monastic authorities yesterday announced that Luang Pu Nenkham was no longer a monk.

A monastic disciplinary-probe team met at Wat Pa Sri Samran in the province yesterday. After the meeting, the Si Sa Ket monastic chief's secretary Phra Khru Wacharasitthikhun said the team considered information from the DSI and the Office of National Buddhism, as well as the case of a woman who had revealed an alleged sexual relationship with Luang Pu Nenkham. It was agreed at the meeting that he would be expelled from the monkhood. Phra Khru Wacharasitthikhun said the officials could proceed with legal action against the monk.

DSI chief Tarit Pengdith said the agency was considering seeking an arrest warrant for statutory rape, as the woman who claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Luang Pu Nenkham from the time she was 14 until they had a child together would officially file a compliant with the DSI.

Retrieval of allegedly embezzled assets could be a lengthy task because many had been moved, Tarit said. But he said the department would try to retrieve as many as possible.

Tarit said the DSI would also contact related agencies regarding procedures to extradite the monk back to Thailand, pointing out that other countries gave importance to child-molestation and money-laundering cases.

Pol Lt-Colonel Korrawat Panprapakorn, director of the DSI's Bureau of Regional Operations Centre, said investigators tracing the monk's car purchases suspected he had bought at least 100 vehicles. The DSI would try to retrieve them all and summon those involved in the purchases to give information.

DSI Security Crime Bureau chief Pong-in Intarakhao said at least three senior monks had contacted the DSI to return cars given to them by the former monk as they felt uneasy about them.

DNA test

In regard to the DNA test on the boy said to be the monk's son, Central Institute of Forensic Science chief Anek Yomjinda said the institute was still waiting for DNA samples from the monk to compare with samples taken from the boy and his mother. Anek said the lab couldn't use DNA samples of the monk's half-brother because the two men had a different father.

Early yesterday, National Buddhism chief Nopparat Benjawatananun said the office would tomorrow report to acting Dhammayut order head Somdej Phra Wannarat on a decision by the Ubon Ratchathani monastic chief and Wat Tai Phrachao Yai Ong Teu abbot to expel Luang Pu Nenkham from the temple's supervision.

Nopparat also said the Centre for Monks and Novices' Foreign Travel Control would urge the Foreign Ministry to revoke the ex-monk's passport on the same day.

Nopparat said he had ordered National Buddhism provincial branches to check if more than 10 branches of Luang Pu Nenkham's "Wat Pa Khanti Dhamma" were legally established or had engaged in illegitimate transactions.

In related news, Fine Arts Office 11 Ubon Ratchathani chief Khajorn Mukmeekha said the results of checks into the materials used in the monk's construction of an Emerald Buddha image replica project would come out in one week. He also submitted a report of the office's findings to Fine Arts Department chief Sahawat Naenna stating that at least eight Emerald Buddha image replicas of three sizes were to be made and reportedly displayed with alms bowls to collect donations.