Nineteen Cambodian monks were arrested and defrocked in Thailand on Tuesday after police found them illegally camping in the forest and soliciting donations, authorities confirmed yesterday.
Immigration police and Royal Thai Police in Phuket began their search after receiving complaints that the monks were asking residents and tourists for cash donations.
Police discovered the monks in the Chao Fa Mine forest, where they illegally camped for more than two weeks and were found in possession of fake passports.
The monks were later taken to Phuket’s Wat Mongkolnimit for examination, said Phuket Buddhist centre director Thawin Srinakhon.
“We examined them and saw that they didn’t have legal documents declaring them as monks,” Srinakhon said. “They weren’t following Buddhist rules and illegally crossed the border so they were defrocked.”
According to him, the men are currently facing charges for illegally crossing the border and will be sent back to Cambodia. Srinakhon added that “fake” Cambodian monks are frequently arrested and defrocked for illegally crossing into Thailand and soliciting in Phuket.
“Sometimes, it even happens in other areas in Thailand,” Srinakhon added.
Four other “fake monks” were arrested and defrocked in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town on Wednesday, police said.
“They went to the village to solicit donations and the villagers doubted them because they can’t sing Buddhist songs,” said Poipet police chief Om Sophal. After being found without proper documents, the men were defrocked and detained by police. Sophal added that the men also attempted to illegally cross the Thai border.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THE BANGKOK POST