Normally known for their humble lifestyles of contemplation, altruism and above all moderation in all things, the world was surprised to see one Thai monk recently enjoying the high life in a private jet. The clip quickly went viral, leaving the holy man with an awful lot of explaining to do.
Identified as Abbot Luang Pu Nenkham, Thailand’s National Buddhism Office’s director Nopparat Benjawatananun said this week that he will be ‘clarifying his position’ on Sunday, saying, “He will hold a press conference and I will be there to listen”.
It’s not just the jet ride that’s put him in the eye of the storm. Luang chose to accessorise for the flight with some chic designer shades and a Louis Vuitton bag. A further wave of protest arose when a picture emerged of him lying in a less than monastic posture next to an apparent lady friend.
An activist has already launched a legal complaint on the grounds that, “his behaviour goes against the rules and beliefs of Buddhism.” Songkran Achariyasap, who chairs a network that monitors activities considered detrimental to national agenda, religion or monarchy, will be actively pursuing charges for the supposed holy men.
Luang Pu Nenkham is purported to have a wide circle of wealthy and influential followers who are evidently generous with their cash. Officials have confirmed that at the time of the flight, he was not on official business.
His followers have been keen to rush to his defence. One individual Mr Pattaradej claims that, “He was invited to carry out rites in Phuket, that’s why he was on the jet.”
He also emphasised that the photo in question was doctored, and disciple Pattaradej Sopongpanich, countered that there was “nothing wrong” with Luang Pu Nenkham riding in a private jet if someone else had arranged the trip on his behalf.