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Nineteen Cambodian monks were defrocked and arrested yesterday (December 2) after police found them to be in Thailand illegally and soliciting donations in Wichit.
At 6pm, Muang District Clerk Suthee Sirianan, Phuket Immigration chief Lt Col Tienchai Chompoo, Wichit police, officials from the Phuket Cultural Office and Territorial Defence volunteers were all involved in the arrest of the 19 who had been camped in forest in the Chao Fa Mine areas.
The officials swooped after a call from local residents complaining that the monks had been going around asking for donations from residents and tourists.
Police search three tents and found foreign and Thai cash inside each monk’s bag. Some had around B1,000, others more than B10,000.
Police also found 19 mobile phones, fake passports and monks’ IDs from Cambodia.
They discovered that the monks had been camped in the wood without permission for more than two weeks.
In the morning, they would go out to collect alms and asked for cash donations. Around midday they would come back to their tents where they would eat half of the alms food and then sell the other half back to the food vendors in the market.
The monks were taken to Wat Mongkolnimit for examination by Phuket’s head monk, Phra Khru Meita. After deciding that they had not been following Buddhist monkhood precepts he ordered them defrocked.
All 19 were then taken to Immigration to face charged of being in Thailand illegally.
Phra Khru Meita revealed that this year alone police had arrested more than 100 Cambodian monks had been arrested in Phuket for similar actions.
They would usually come in a big group and set up tents in forest. After they had collected enough money, those who were not arrested would go back to Cambodia.
They could each collect at least a couple of thousand baht a day. The worse part, he said, is that residents and tourists cannot tell them apart from legitimate Thai monks.