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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Thai monk censured over Mercs
monks
The reputation of Thailand's monks has been dented by a series of recent scandals
Thailand's abbots have censured a Buddhist monk who has amassed a vast collection of luxury cars with disciples' donations.


Those concerned with Buddhism should devote themselves to boosting morality rather than possession

Religious Affairs Department official
Reports said Phra Khru Viboon Pattanakit, abbot of the Sisakrabua temple in Bangkok, had collected around 60 classic cars, many of them Mercedes Benz.

The abbots ruled that he had acted improperly following a hearing of the Sangha Supreme Council, Thailand's highest religious governing body.

Mercedes logo
The monk is said to be keen on Mercedes
Phra Khru Viboon, who told the council he only had 29 cars, said he wanted to set up a classic automobile museum.

However he offered to abide by whatever decision the council made and would dispose of his collection if necessary.

Reports say the Education Ministry has also ordered Thailand's Religious Affairs Department to investigate.

Deputy education minister Vichai Tansiri told the Bangkok Post that Phra Khru Viboon's actions would encourage disciples to worship luxury and extravagance.

Donations

The monk was quoted saying he had received the cars as donations from his followers or bought them with cash given by his devotees.

He also said monks and novices at the temple used the cars to learn the skills necessary for becoming car mechanics once they left the monkhood.

However, Phra Khru Viboon is unlikely to be defrocked - a punishment usually reserved for those monks caught committing actual crimes or breaking basic religious rules against sex and drinking.

Drugs

Thailand's monkhood is bracing for another scandal after tests on 18 monks at a temple in Nakhon Sawan province appeared to show they had taken drugs.

Samples have been sent to a lab for further analysis; if they test positive, the monks will be expelled.

The surprise tests were part of a crackdown on methamphetamines, which have been flooding into Thailand from Burma in record numbers this year.

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See also:

09 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Boom in Buddhist websites
25 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
Thai abbot surrenders
07 Apr 98 | Asia-Pacific
Buddhism 'in decline'
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