PHUKET: Patong Police arrested two men yesterday for posing as monks after their odd behavior aroused suspicion and gave the charlatans away.
Manit Keawsen, 33, and Sod Nhamjaidee, 49, both from Suphan Buri, were arrested in front of a 7-Eleven store on Sainamyen Road, while they were begging for “alms” from passersby.
“I saw them just before noon while I was taking my lunch break, and I noticed something strange about their actions,” Lt Col Suttichai Tianpho of the Patong Police told the Phuket Gazette.
“I approached them and asked for monastic identification, but they were unable to produce any – that made me even more suspicious,” he said.
Col Suttichai then asked Mr Manit and Mr Sod to accompany him to Patong Police Station. Both men were wearing the traditional saffron robes.
After searching their belongings police found 1,000 donation envelopes, two more monastic robes, some condoms and 2,780 baht in cash.
The two con men had also carefully recorded all their cash profits collected from people on the street.
“The two finally confessed that they were not monks after we called in a high-ranking monk from the Patong area who said he did not recognize them as being from a local temple,” said Col Suttichai.
After checking the police criminal-records database it was discovered that both men had been arrested for the same caper in Hua Hin in August this year.
The database also indicated that Mr Manit had a history of drug abuse. However, tests for drugs on the two imposters proved negative.
“We will charge them with pretending to be monks and with inveigling money from people under false pretenses,” said Col Suttichai.
Both suspects were ordered to hand over their robes.
Col Suttichai urged people to report to police any monks acting suspiciously or out of character.
“It’s easy to spot fake monks – the real ones would never beg for alms like that on the street. Every monk must also carry special monastic ID.
“Posing as monks and cheating people out of their money for personal gain discredits the image of Buddhism – everyone should always try to support our religious heritage – not destroy it,” Col Suttichai lamented.
He added that anyone who observed suspicious behavior of this kind could report it directly to Patong Police Station by calling: 076-342719.
— Natthaphol Wittayarungrote
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