BANGKOK — A Buddhist activist has filed new charges against the defrocked monk Yantra for continually posing as a monk despite protests from the national Buddhist authorities.
Pra Yantra was widely revered as a charismatic and influential monk before a scandal concerning his celibacy erupted in 1994 and caused Buddhist authorities to strip him of his monkhood.
Yantra, whose secular name is Winai La-ongsuwan, fled to the United States where he lived in exile for more than 20 years. Last week, Mr. Winai returned to Thailand for the first time since the scandal, and he was warmly received by followers who continue to regard him as a legitimate monk.
The Office of National Buddhism (ONAB) has condemned Mr. Winai's continued adoption of monk-like clothes and titles since his return to Thailand.
Frustrated by Mr. Winai's refusal to heed the ONAB's protests, Prachin Thanangkorn, the chairman of a Buddhist group called Dhammathippatai, met with police and filed charges against Mr. Winai for impersonating a Buddhist monk, an offence prohibited under Article 208 of the Thai Criminal Codes.
Mr. Prachin brought a copy of Khaosod newspaper from 24 April 2014, which includes photos of Mr. Winai posing as a monk among his followers, to show to the police as evidence.
"I cannot tolerate the actions of this former monk," Mr. Prachin said. "The way he dresses leads people to think of him as a monk, even though he was defrocked long ago."
Mr. Prachin also filed the very same charge against Mr. Winai in 1995, but that charge has since expired, police said.
The activist said he does not hold any personal grudge against Mr. Winai.
"It's just that what he does is not appropriate, and it could be a bad example for other impersonations in the future," Mr. Prachin explained. "I don't despise him. The [first] charge I filed against him has already expired, so he can enter Thailand as an ordinary man."
He added, "If he had dressed as a layman, it would have been fine. But since he has decided to behave in this way, I have to file charges."
Pol.Lt.Col. Komkrit Sangthong said he has documented the charge and will consult with his superintendents regarding further actions.
Mr. Winai was defrocked in 1994 after he was exposed by Khaosod newspaper to have tricked or coerced a number of women into sexual relations with him, in violation of the Buddhist ethics that prohibit ordained monks from having physical contact with women.
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