A former abbot who left the monkhood over a sex scandal after borrowing 600,000 baht from the temple has returned the money, amid reports he had used it to pay off the woman and a news reporter to keep his affair a secret.
Pongsakorn Chankaeo, 23, was formerly known as Phra Kato and acting abbot of Wat Pen Yat in Chawang district. He returned the money to representatives of his former temple at Wat Mangkhalaram in Phiphun district on Wednesday evening.
Phra Khru Atthatham Kowit, the ecclesiastical chief of Chawang district, witnessed the handover of the money. He said it would be deposited in Wat Pen Yat’s bank account on Thursday.
Wasanti Jongruay, a director of Wat Pen Yat, said the former acting abbot had borrowed the money from the temple, but he did not know what he had planned to do with it.
Mr Pongsakorn left his monkhood last Saturday following the leaking of an audio recording of a conversation about a secret sexual relationship between a woman and a monk.
The leak led to reports that the monk had sex on several ocassions with the woman in a car on the crest of Kathoon dam in Phiphun district. The spot has since become a local attraction.
During a phone-in interview with a TV programme host, Mr Pongsakorn admitted to his misconduct over the past three months and to giving about 300,000 baht to the 37-year-old woman to end their controversial relationship, after she made repeated demands for money.
There were also reports that he paid another 300,000 baht to a reporter to keep quiet about the affair.
Mr Pongsakorn entered the monkhood in 2017 and had many followers, attracted by his entertaining way of teaching Buddhism over social media.
Meanwhile, police have become involved.
Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaeo, commander of the police anti-corruption division, said on Thursday that his unit would investigate whether the money issue violated any laws.
Former acting abbot Pongsakorn Chankaeo, 23, left, meets a senior monk to return the 600,000 baht he borrowed from his former temple. (Photo: Nujaree Rakrun)