Embezzling ex-monk denied bail

Phra Khru Kitti Phatcharakhun is shown arriving for a court hearing in Bangkok following his arrest in November 2017. He was convicted of embezzlement and disrobed on Thursday. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Appeal Court on Friday refused to grant bail to a former monk now behind bars while he appeals his sentence for pocketing more than 24 million baht in temple development funds.

The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases read out the decision of the higher court to a lawyer for Somkiat Khanthong, formerly known as Phra Khru Kitti Phatcharakhun, who has been in Bangkok Remand Prison since Thursday.

Court spokesman Suriyan Hongwilai said the Appeal Court was concerned that the ex-monk could flee if he was temporarily released given the serious nature of the charges.

Somkiat, 55, was disrobed at the courthouse on Thursday and escorted to the prison after the decision on his bail request was delayed.

He had been sentenced on Thursday to 26 years behind bars on 13 counts related to the laundering of money embezzled from temples when he was the abbot of Wat Lat Khae in Chon Daen district of Phetchabun and the monastic chief of the district.

The funds totalling more than 24 million baht had been allocated to 12 temples in Phetchabun, Tak, Nakhon Sawan and Chumphon provinces. Prosecutors said Somkiat, who was arrested in 2017 colluded with Nopparat Benjawatananun, a former director of the National Office of Buddhism. The latter is still at large.

The former monk can make a new bail request within one month, court officials said.

The ruling against him was the first of several corruption cases related to temple development funds involving other well-known famous monks and officials in Bangkok and other provinces.

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