A senior Thai monk has been drawn into deep controversy for possessing a vintage Mercedes-Benz worth more than US$250,000 (AU$345,000).
In a recent revelation by the police, it was found that Somdej Chuang, the 90-year-old chairman of Thailand’s Buddhist “supreme council,” owns this highly expensive cream coloured Benz from the era of the 1950s.
The police alleged that one of the three Benzes possessed by the monk’s temple, who is supposed to be the anti-material Buddhist ideal and was a monk since 14 years of age, was imported from the US in multiple pieces. This was cleverly done to avoid import fees.
The present controversy along with another incident in which his monks fought with soldiers during a protest in February could come in the way of Chuang’s nomination as the Supreme Patriarch. A number of other monks are also opposed to the idea of him being chosen for the role.
“At this point, we can only say that this vehicle is illegal,” the Nation quoted Director-general Colonel Paisit Wongmuang, Department of Special Investigation (DSI), as saying. “We will investigate further as to why he has given this Mercedes-Benz to the senior monk,” he shared. He added that DSI has been probing the case since 2013.
The Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has assured that a debate will be held on the appointment of the Supreme Patriarch.
“I humbly ask all of you to adhere to the five Buddhist precepts. We should abstain from harming living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication, and to dedicate the merit to Their Majesties the King and Queen,” Chuang was quoted by the Straits Times as saying in his speech, on the Makha Bucha day last week. “May prosperity and peace come to the people and nation.”
The Global Post reported that the Buddhist men can choose to slip in and out of monkhood in a period of two weeks. Of the 300,000 monks in Thailand, these men who accept monkhood for a brief period drag ill habits into the temples.