UBON RATCHATHANI: What’s wrong with this scene: a man and a woman sitting side-by-side, happily drinking beer together to celebrate the purchase of a new vehicle. Although it may seem like a scene straight out of a car commercial, this otherwise happy image becomes tainted when the man involved is a monk and the scene is the monks’ quarters in a temple. A group of 30 angry villagers in Ubon Ratchathani’s Amphur Chongmake went straight to the top to vent their displeasure over the alleged wanton behavior of senior monk Pra Khamphan Oon, and presented a written request to Ubon Ratchathani Governor Chaisit Hoderakit to look into the matter. In order to back up their claims, the villagers presented the governor and the press with two shocking photos of the monk in action: the first, with him sitting in his quarters next to a mysterious woman from Chantaburi, identified only as “Khaek”. Beside the happy pair was a bottle of beer and a half-full glass of the brew. From the photos it appeared the monk had been drinking. The second photo provided a view of the monks quarters, which was adorned with hand-drawn sketches of naked women on the walls and a pile of pornographic books lying atop the monk’s saffron-colored robes. The monk had apparently not freed himself of the chains of lust. Although the senior monk admitted to drinking beer, he said he had drunk only a single bottle – and didn’t consider it a big deal. He added that he simply wanted to celebrate the purchase of a new car, which, he added, was bought with his own money. As for the woman, his words had a strange Clintonesque echo: “I did not have sex with that woman,” he said, backing up this claim, oddly, by adding, “because I have relatives coming to visit me all the time.” But privacy is a rare commodity in a Thai villager, and even rarer in a Thai village wat. Villagers insisted that Pra Kamphan was a habitual drunk and had already signed his name to a written promise that he would leave the monkhood. However, apparently happy with the lifestyle, he had so far failed to carry out his promise. One of Ubon Ratchathani’s deputy governors said the issue needed to be handled carefully as Pra Khamphan is a “big-time” monk. He said the issue would be referred to the local branch of the newly-formed, Orwellian-sounding Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for overseeing the behavior of monks.
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