Sunday, 5 September 2021

Abbot's motel caper, angry stepdad, quarantine tales

 Short-stay wall jumper

The naughty abbot

A Samut Sakhon abbot has left the monkhood in disgrace after spiriting an admirer to a short-stay motel and being caught by her husband.

Phra Thepsutin Sirimongkalo, or Phra Nu, abbot of Wat Pa Suwattanaram in tambon Lak Sam, Ban Phaeo district, hurriedly quit the saffron robes after the woman’s husband confronted him at the short-stay, assaulted him, and took photos to confirm he was there.

He also complained to the tambon and district’s sangha head. It is the forest temple’s second brush with a sex scandal in less than two years.

The woman is thought to have turned up at the 20 rai temple at 9am that day in a white pickup to meet the abbot, the only monk in residence. The vehicle was seen turning into the short-stay motel in Muang district around 2pm.

The enterprising husband, who was not named, followed the white pickup to the motel via GPS tracking equipment.

He confronted Phra Nu, as he was known before he left the monkhood, in the hours after the incident, and punched him. A photograph taken by the husband shows Phra Nu trying to cover his face. CCTV footage shows Phra Nu, who was wearing shorts and white T-shirt, fleeing the motel room across the motel compound. News reports said he scaled the motel wall to escape.

The brazen nature of the episode stunned the local community, as it is less than two years since the temple was hit by a scandal involving its acting abbot on sex charges.

On Dec 25, 2019, Phra Khru Sangkharak Saksit Kittiko, 40, or Saksit Sonbanphaeo, was defrocked and charged with sexually abusing novices at the temple. Before his disgrace, Phra Saksit was in line for promotion to the top job.

Santi Hongsa, 51, tambon Lak Sam head, said news of the drama at the short-stay reached him the next morning when the husband complained. He said he was looking after the temple now, as there were no monks left in residence.

Phra Nu, he said, paid a furtive visit to the temple later that night to take its vehicle to Ayutthaya, where he is thought to have formally left the monkhood. Nu called him the next day to say he had left the vehicle at Wat Phanan Choeng Worawihan and quit the robes.

Mr Santi said his inquiries showed that when the woman’s white pickup turned up on the morning of their tryst, no one at the temple paid much attention, as “it comes and goes from the temple a lot.” The husband told him he wanted nothing more to do with his wife. It is unclear how she and the abbot met, or how long they had been together.

“Where locals’ faith is concerned, that has taken a heavy knock, because as recently as the day before, Phra Nu was still doing the alms round and mentioned nothing about wanting to leave,” he said.

The former abbot’s mother, Sawai, aged 70, who lives in Ban Phaeo district, denied her son had taken shelter there. Wat Ban Rai Charoen Phon in Muang district had called to say he quit the monkhood there. The temple, however, denies it.

She denied her son had disgraced the monkhood, as he had quit the calling. In any event, she said, he was not the damaged party in her view, but the woman, as she was married.

Kamolwan Chaohongsa and Thanathorn Somton, descendants of the land’s original owners, say their grandparents donated 10 rai to the temple and would have been horrified at the goings-on.

“If this carries on, when will the temple develop? Our grandparents wanted it to be a temple in which locals could have faith. How are we supposed to let this scandal go quiet?” Mr Thanathorn asked.

At Wat Ban Rai Charoen Phon, Phra Palad Krissada Sama Jitto, tambon Mahachai’s head monk, who is close to Phra Nu, said he had spoken to the ex-abbot. “He sounded stressed and was in a hurry, and asked me not to ask questions. He can speak directly, even bluntly, but as far as I know has had no trouble with women before.”

He denied Phra Nu had left the monkhood at his own temple as his mother claimed. Nor had he quit the robes at the Ayutthaya temple where he left the car.

Head monk for tambon Ban Phaeo, Phra Khru Atthasitthikosol of Wat Rat Sattha Kayaram, said he had proposed Phra Nu to the regional office after the former abbot’s arrest in late 2019. He felt disappointed, as the temple had been through enough.

No love lost in this family
An Udon Thani woman has turned on her stepdad in a double killing case, saying she suspects he killed her drug-taking younger brother in a fit of rage and that her mother sustained fatal wounds as she tried to protect him.

Ban Phue police on Aug 27 nabbed Suriyon Wongchai, 73, at a field hut on the family farm in Village 14, Hai Sok, Ban Phue after he killed his stepson with a machete.

The bodies of Boonmee Buddanok or “Yai Thum”, 65, the old man’s wife, and Poonsap “Kun” Buddanok, 32, his stepson, were found nearby, along with a knife and the machete.

Kun’s elder sister, Waratthaya Buddanok, 40, disputes Mr Suriyon’s version of events that his stepson started stabbing his mother first after she refused his demand for drugs money.

He claims he went to the defence of his wife by hitting the young man with the machete and ended up killing him.

“Everyone in the family was shocked. but no one witnessed it as it happened in the farm hut,” she told reporters.

Mr Suriyon, who was the only one in the hut but for the other two and reported the incident, said he was merely trying to help his wife. The family owns a large sugar cane plantation and also raises seven head of cattle.

Kun, who had no work, had asked his mother for money to feed his drug habit, as was his wont. He argued with his mother constantly, because he wanted her to split up the land and cattle, but she refused because she was worried he would spend it buying drugs, he told police.

Kun, he said, had turned up on his motorcycle about 10.30pm. He was visiting the toilet when he heard her screaming and rushed to her aid.

The young man was stabbing his mother, so he grabbed a machete and whacked him over the head. Some of the machete blows glanced off his stepson and hit his wife, he said. He also seized the knife from his stepson and stabbed him with it.

By the time it ended, his stepson lay dead, and his wife dying from her injuries. He took his motorbike to alert the village headman, who told police.

Ms Waratthaya said Kun had come back to live with his family seven months ago after his marriage ended. On the day he was killed, he had asked his mother for his share of rent from 800 sq m of farm land. Yai Thum had told him she would give it to him but changed her mind.

“When he didn’t get the money, he said he would take one of the cows to be sold, and spend the money on drugs. I suspect they argued over that,” she said.

However, she also believes Kun started arguing with Mr Suriyon first, and that Mr Suriyon stabbed Kun. “Mum could not accept seeing her son being attacked so tried to stop them but ended up getting stabbed herself,” she surmised. Yai Thum and Mr Suriyon had been married for two years.

Ms Waratthaya said she doesn’t think her brother would kill his own mother as he loved her, and apart from the drugs was a good lad. Police charged the old man with intentional killing.

Chilli paste tantrum
Quarantine can bring its stresses and strains, for those serving it and staff watching over them alike.

Ban Dan district police in Buri Ram were called to a quarantine centre last week after a man nearing the end of his stay flared up at an official who refused to let him eat a chilli paste dish his wife had dropped off.

Wichan Charoenrum, 42, asked his wife to prepare the dish as he was sick of the plain boxed food which the centre served up. She dropped off a traditional Isan dish of chilli paste, boiled vegetables, curry, and fruit.

However, official Thidarat Naptheusuk, 28, who watches over the place, would not allow the chilli paste dish in, as they had run into problems in the past with spicy food. “Someone who was serving quarantine who ate chilli paste developed stomach problems and had to be taken to hospital,” she said. When Mr Wichan heard about the decision he flew into a rage and lunged at her. Ms Thidarat, scared for her safety, fled and alerted police.

Police spoke to Mr Wichan, who apologised but pleaded for understanding. He had travelled from Kanchanaburi back to Buri Ram and served his time in quarantine as required, but had nothing but boring boxed food to eat. “It is too plain, so I called my wife and asked her to bring in chilli paste,” he said.

“The reason they give for not letting the food in is silly, as people from Isan grow up with chilli paste from birth and are used to hot food. Next time, can I ask them to vary the menu a bit? It’s stressful to be here, and I am stressed on top of that not being allowed to eat food to my taste,” he said.

Meanwhile, a young man serving quarantine in Mae Sot, Tak, arranged to have cannabis delivered in a sugared roti roll, but was caught first.

Roti and drugs combo
Staff inspecting goods entering the state-run local quarantine facility at the Phu Inn Hotel in Village 7, Ban Nong Bua, Mae Pa, Mae Sot, were suspicious as a roti package, dropped off for one of their charges, looked too small. 

They unwrapped the roti pancake only to find nine grammes of cannabis secreted inside.

They called out a young man with dyed blonde hair who was expecting the parcel. 

He said he ordered the cannabis from a friend on the outside. Police said the young man will face legal action when he is finished serving his LQ.

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