Former Abbot Returns 600k Baht to Temple After Sex Scandal

A former abbot involved in a sex scandal has returned 600,000 baht borrowed from his former temple following reports that he had used the money to pay off women and journalists to keep his affairs hidden.

Pongsakorn Chankaeo, formerly known as Phra Kato, was the abbot of Wat Pen Yat in Chawang district. According to Wat Pen Yat’s director Wasanti Jongruay, Mr. Pongsakorn had borrowed 600,000 baht from the temple, but it was unclear what the abbot expected to spend the money on.

The 23-year-old man reportedly returned the money to representatives of his former temple on Wednesday night, the ecclesiastical chief of Chawang district Phra Khru Atthatham Kowit said.

Phra Khru Atthatham Kowit stated that he witnessed the money’s return at Wat Mangkhalaram in Phiphun district and added that it was set to be deposited in Wat Pen Yat’s bank account yesterday.

Last Saturday, the media reported that Mr. Pongsakorn had left his monkhood after a leaked audio recording revealed a secret sexual relationship between a woman and a monk.

After the leak, reports said the monk had allegedly had sex with the woman multiple times while in a car at Kathoon dam’ crest, Phiphun district, a spot that has become a local attraction since the scandal made headlines.

Mr. Pongsakorn admitted to having sex with a woman over the past three months.

Speaking in a phone-in interview with a TV program host, he explained that he had given 300,000 baht to the 37-year-old female, who asked for money several times to end their controversial affair. The other 300,000 baht was reportedly paid to a reporter for not revealing details about the former abbot’s misconduct.

Police have started legal proceedings against the man. On Thursday, police anti-corruption division commander Pol Maj Gen Charoonkiat Pankaeo said a police unit would launch an investigation to determine whether borrowing money from the temple violated any laws.

After entering the monkhood five years ago, Mr. Pongsakorn became very popular and amassed many followers. Most people were drawn to his entertaining way of teaching Buddhism using social media profiles.