BANGKOK (Reuters) - A former Buddhist monk wanted on child sex charges arrived in Thailand’s capital Bangkok late on Wednesday after being extradited from the United States where he had fled.
Wirapol Sukphol came to public attention in 2013 when a YouTube video appeared showing the then-monk on a private jet with a Louis Vuitton bag and wearing aviator sunglasses, behavior deemed contrary to Buddhist teachings and a monk’s vow to shun material goods.
Later that year, he was expelled from the monkhood after being accused of having sexual intercourse - a grave offence for monks - with an underage girl.
He then fled to the United States.
Millions of dollars in assets were uncovered in his name.
Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation eventually filed charges of child molestation, child abduction, public fraud, money laundering and computer crime against Wirapol.
His case is part of a series of scandals that have rocked Thailand’s Buddhist clergy in recent years. Other examples include monks caught for dealing drugs and some who were defrocked for sexual relations with followers and other behavior seen as immoral.
Concerned that Thai Buddhism is in decline, some have called for bold reforms of the country’s religious institutions and their governing bodies.
The military government, which took power after a 2014 coup, this year introduced a bill that appears to significantly reduce the influence of Buddhism’s supreme council.
Wirapol did not speak to the press on Wednesday after landing in Bangkok.
He was formally charged upon arrival in Thailand, prosecutors said, and will be questioned overnight.
Reporting by Vorasit Satienlerk and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Toby Chopra