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.


Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

Updated 22 March 2019
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Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

  • The second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North
  • The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable”

SEOUL: North Korea abruptly withdrew its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office in the North on Friday, Seoul officials said.
The development will likely put a damper on ties between the Koreas and complicate global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program. Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea informed South Korea of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.
The North said it “is pulling out with instructions from the superior authority,” according to a Unification Ministry statement. It didn’t say whether North Korea’s withdrawal of staff would be temporary or permanent.
According to the South Korean statement, the North added that it “will not mind the South remaining in the office” and that it would notify the South about practical matters later. Seoul’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters that South Korea plans to continue to staff the Kaesong liaison office normally and that it expects the North will continue to allow the South Koreans to commute to the office. He said Seoul plans to staff the office with 25 people on Saturday and Sunday.
The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable.” It said South Korea urges the North to return its staff to the liaison office soon.
The liaison office opened last September as part of a flurry of reconciliation steps. It is the first such Korean office since the peninsula was split into a US-backed, capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported, socialist North in 1945. The Koreas had previously used telephone and fax-like communication channels that were often shut down in times of high tension.
The town is where the Korea’s now-stalled jointly run factory complex was located. It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap labor. Both Koreas want the US to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.