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‘Jet-Set’ Monk Faces Child Sex Charges in Thailand After Being Extradited From the U.S.

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A disgraced former Buddhist monk was formally charged with child sex offenses in Bangkok Wednesday night after having been extradited back to his homeland from the U.S.

Wirapol Sukphol fled Thailand after being expelled from the Sangha, or community of monks, in late 2013. Reuters reports that he was accused of having sex — a grave breach of monastic precepts — with an underage girl.

Before the child abuse allegations surfaced, Wirapol was already notorious. Earlier in 2013 he had appeared in a YouTube video wearing aviator sunglasses aboard a private jet and was subsequently dubbed “the jet-set monk” in various news outlets; an unseemly image for a supposedly austere member of the clergy to project.

After Wirapol fled to the U.S., millions of dollars in assets were reportedly uncovered in his name, and Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation proceeded to file child molestation, child abduction and financial crime charges against him.

The case is one of a number of recent morality scandals that has shaken the reputation of the Sangha, which — along with the monarchy and the nation — is one of the three traditional pillars of Thai society.

In June, Thailand’s ruling junta introduced a bill aimed at exerting greater control over the Supreme Council, the country’s highest religious authority. If passed, the measure would force tens of thousands of temples to declare their finances.


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Write to Joseph Hincks at joseph.hincks@time.com