Thailand’s infamous ‘jet-set monk’ convicted of raping a minor

Disgraced Thai monk Wiraphon Sukphon (3rd-L) arrives with other prisoners at a criminal court in Bangkok to face another sentence on October 17, 2018. (AFP / THAI NEWS PIX / Panumas Sanguanwong)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Thailand’s infamous ‘jet-set monk’ convicted of raping a minor

  • Wiraphon Sukphon 16-year sentence will be added to the 20-year prison term he received in August after being found guilty of multiple counts of fraud
  • The monk was extradited back to Thailand from the US last year, accused of the rape and duping donors to a supposedly religious project

BANGKOK: Thailand’s infamous “jet-set monk” was convicted of raping an underage girl Wednesday, a court official said, in a case that has rocked an already scandal-mired Buddhist clergy.
Wiraphon Sukphon, 39, earned his evocative moniker after footage emerged of him wearing designer sunglasses with a Louis Vuitton bag on a private jet.
He was extradited back to Thailand from the US last year, accused of the rape and duping donors who had given him money to build what he said would be the world’s largest emerald image of Buddha.
The girl was under the age of 15 and Wiraphon is said to have later fathered a child with her.
In Wednesday’s ruling, which found him guilty of rape and separating the girl from her parents, the court said he had given the Buddhist faith a “bad reputation.”
“He used his monkhood, which Thai people respect,” the court official told AFP.
Wiraphon’s 16-year custodial sentence punishment will be added to the 20-year prison term he received in August after being found guilty of multiple counts of fraud.
The military junta that seized power in 2014 has taken a hard-line against monks acting outside the law and authorities have considered introducing digitised ID cards that could track members of the community with criminal histories.
Thailand is mostly Buddhist and the religion is woven into everyday life, but drug, sex and financial scandals have weighed on the Buddhist leadership and forced some high-profile collisions with law enforcement.
In May the abbot of the tourist-heavy “Golden Mount” temple in Bangkok was arrested after $4 million was found in bank accounts in his name.
Police are also investigating allegations of financial wrongdoing within the National Office of Buddhism.
And early last year, soldiers raided the temple of the mega-rich Dhammakaya sect on the outskirts of Bangkok to detain its controversial abbot on accusations of massive fraud. He eluded capture and remains at large.


UK Cabinet to meet after Britain, EU reach draft Brexit deal

Updated 17 min 23 sec ago
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UK Cabinet to meet after Britain, EU reach draft Brexit deal

LONDON: Negotiators from Britain and the European Union have struck a proposed divorce deal that will be presented to politicians on both sides for approval, officials in London and Brussels said Tuesday.
After a year and a half of stalled talks, false starts and setbacks, negotiators agreed on proposals to resolve the main outstanding issue: the Irish border.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said the Cabinet would hold a special meeting Wednesday to consider the proposal. Its support isn’t guaranteed: May is under pressure from pro-Brexit ministers not to make further concessions to the EU.
Ambassadors from the 27 other EU countries are also due to hold a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
May told the Cabinet earlier Tuesday that “a small number” of issues remain to be resolved in divorce negotiations with the European Union, while her deputy, David Lidington, said the two sides are “almost within touching distance” of a Brexit deal.
Britain wants to seal a deal this fall, so that Parliament has time to vote on it before the UK leaves the bloc on March 29. The European Parliament also has to approve any agreement.
Negotiators have been meeting late into the night in Brussels in a bid to close the remaining gaps.
The main obstacle has long been how to ensure there are no customs posts or other checks along the border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
Irish national broadcaster RTE said the draft agreement involves a common customs arrangement for the UK and the EU, to eliminate the need for border checks.
But May faces pressure from pro-Brexit Cabinet members not to agree to an arrangement that binds Britain to EU trade rules indefinitely.
May also faces growing opposition from pro-EU lawmakers, who say her proposed Brexit deal is worse than the status quo and the British public should get a new vote on whether to leave or to stay.
If there is no agreement soon, UK businesses will have to start implementing contingency plans for a “no-deal” Brexit — steps that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods and relocating production and services outside Britain.
Even with such measures in place, the British government says leaving the EU without a deal could cause major economic disruption, with gridlock at ports and disruption to supplies of foods, goods and medicines.
On Tuesday, the European Commission published a sheaf of notices outlining changes in a host of areas in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They point to major disruption for people and businesses: UK truckers’ licenses won’t be valid in the EU, British airlines will no longer enjoy traffic rights, and even British mineral water will cease to be recognized as such by the EU.
The EU said Tuesday it was proposing visa-free travel for UK citizens on short trips, even if there is no deal — but only if Britain reciprocates.
“We need to prepare for all options,” EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said. On a deal, he said: “We are not there yet.”
Meanwhile, official figures suggest Brexit is already having an impact on the British workforce.
The Office for National Statistics said the number of EU citizens working in the country — 2.25 million— was down 132,000 in the three months to September from the year before. That’s the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997.
Most of the fall is due to fewer workers from eight eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London, said the prospect of Brexit “has clearly made the UK a much less attractive place for Europeans to live and work.”