Gold robes shone a little less brightly in Sattahip last week as Sattahip police arrested current and former monks for allegedly using area temples as covers for drug dealing.
Lertmongkol Thitiwonno, 37, a Prachinburi monk temporarily serving at Plutaluang Temple, was arrested Sept. 23 along with two others in a hotel where police said they were using and selling methamphetamines.
The arrest came three days after National Command Center for Drugs officers apprehended Chatchai Khaonuan, 24, and Somchart Banchuen, 23, two recently defrocked monks, for allegedly selling drugs and intimidating priests at Sattahip’s Thepprasit Temple.
Weerayuth Pan-inth (left) and Lertmongkol Thitiwonno (right) are arrested inside a Plutaluang hotel room.
Lertmongkol’s arrest came after NCCD investigators heard rumors of drugs being smuggled into the Plutaluang temple. A robed informant arranged to purchase three methamphetamine tablets from Lertmongkol, who allegedly sent Weerayuth Pan-inth, 25, to deliver the ya ba to the cooperating monk’s dormitory where police arrested him.
Under interrogation, the Singburi man gave up Lertmongkol and his alleged partner, Sunthree Sa-ngiam, 25, who were found in a Plutaluang hotel room, along with four additional pills.
Police said Lertmongkol confessed to the drug selling, saying he’d been having problems with his new abbot in Plutaluang and, rather than be defrocked, changed into civilian clothes in a temple restroom, then met up with Sunthree to rent a hotel room to consume and sell ya ba.
In the other case, Chatchai and Somchart – both ex-convicts recently released from prison after serving four years for robbery – already had been defrocked a month ago for inappropriate behavior and allegedly physically threatening other monks.
Pongsak Atikhunno, a monk at Thepprasit Temple, alleged to police the pair had been ordained only so they could use temple grounds as a clandestine base for drug dealing.
Once they were defrocked, he said, the two became angry and returned to the temple and forced him to buy drugs under threat of violence. Cooperating with police, the monk set up a drug buy, with officers arresting the two when they arrived to make a deal for three ya ba pills.