Pattaya monks win 44 million baht lottery

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Win fans scandal over pampered clergy

Even as Thailand reels over scandalous video of sunglasses-wearing monks flying in private jets, two Pattaya monks have won 44 million baht in the national lottery.

Khajornwat Chanuthattmumophikhu, 23, and an unnamed 81-year-old priest of Thamsamakkee Temple each played “289673” in the June 16 drawing. Khajornwat won 6 million baht for one winning ticket while the older monk won a total 38 million baht for several winning tickets.

Novice monk Khajornwat Chanuthattmumophikhu (right) won 6 million baht in the government lottery.  He promised not to spend the money until after he defrocks on July 1.Novice monk Khajornwat Chanuthattmumophikhu (right) won 6 million baht in the government lottery.  He promised not to spend the money until after he defrocks on July 1.

In a society where Buddhist tradition prohibits monks from partaking in vices or even touching currency, the gambling win would be scandalous enough. But with national Buddhist leaders investigating “inappropriate behavior” by monks after an Internet video showed several priests with aviator sunglasses, expensive wireless headphones and designer bags flying in a private jet, the lottery win has proved even more embarrassing.

The older monk fled the temple and went into hiding after the news broke while Khajornwat, who only planned to remain ordained for two weeks, will defrock on July 1.

Abbot Athikansombun Lekhthathummo confirmed the two monks had won the government lottery, but refused to provide the name or location of the older winner. He only said that the 81-year-old monk from Nonthaburi had been cloistered at Thamsamakkee for five years and has since left the temple due to the “commotion” his win created.

The abbot said numerous groups have come to the temple seeking donations while others have sought out the winners themselves.

Athikansombun said Khajornwat purchased all the winning tickets while still working as a non-ordained monk’s assistant June 15. He kept one ticket for himself and gave the others to the older monk. Since no monk directly bought the tickets, no Buddhist laws were broken, the abbot maintained.

Khajonwat, who only joined the monkhood June 16 for two weeks to repay his mother’s kindness, said he received permission from the abbot before depositing the winnings in his bank account. But he pledged not to spend the money until he defrocks. Then, he said, he will pay off his mother’s debts and buy her a house. He said he’d also like to make a donation to orphans at the Father Ray Foundation, as he lost his own father years ago.

It’s unknown what the older, lifetime monk plans to do with his 38 million baht or whether he plans to remain a monk.

For the young, temporary monk, the 6 million baht windfall is a life-changer.

Khajonwat said he and mother Nadda Wipharattanakorn, 50, opened “Beau Steak” on Third Road after he was rejected for military service three months ago. His mother raised him alone since he was six after his father, an American serviceman, left her. Khajonwat said one of his goals in life is to find his father, who he identified as James D. Bagett, and talk to him again.

Nadda, sitting on the stairs at her small rented house on Soi Khao Talo, said she was delighted to hear her son had won the lottery. She said Khajonwat was a good man, hard worker and excellent cook at their restaurant. She said she’s happy to let her son decide what the do with the money.