YALA — Wearing a golden embroidered robe and a pectoral necklace glittered with diamonds and other precious stones, a man with a shaved head sits on top of the palankeen as he is being carried by a strong troop of men into a temple.
This is not a royal ceremony or a scene from a period lakorn, but a monk ordination ceremony of a goldsmith owner and a fraud scheme suspect Teerachai Kongthong, also known as “Jeejee Peepo,” which now drew ire from the Buddhist authorities for its lavish spending.
“Reports say he was granted permission to hold the ceremony,” Wiwat Wankumpha of Yala Provincial Buddhist Office said. “We will inspect whether he was rightfully bestowed an ordination robe from the Supreme Patriarch, and we will talk to him since it attracted widespread criticism on social media.”
Traditionally, Buddhist Thai men are expected to ordain for several weeks at least once in their lifetime as it is believed to bring a great merit to their family and help improve their karma.
The ceremony usually begins with a shaving of the head and eyebrows, followed by a boisterous procession to the temple where friends and family would celebrate before the monk-to-be would give up his worldly desires and possessions.
But a video of Teerachai’s ordination rehearsal posted on the internet – it was styled as a ‘trailer’ for the actual ceremony set to take place Thursday – didn’t exactly suggest abandonment of those desires and possessions.
In one part of the video, Teerachai is seen sitting on a gilded throne-like chair, with his helpers setting up various golden items which resemble royal regalias in the background.
“Suspend the sensuality to transcend into the nirvana,” read one of the slogans in the video as Teerachai inspects various elements for his ceremony. “To the light of dharma and happiness in the next incarnation.”
While many netizens rejoiced in his merits and appreciated the elegance of Teerachai’s ordination after photos and videos of it went viral on Wednesday, some found it ironic to see such extravaganza in a religion that preaches for the restraint of the senses.
“Is this an ordination ceremony or a coronation ceremony?” Twitter user @TarotYouuuu commented.
“You said in the video that you would eliminate desires? Oh please,” another user @jeanlisajiso commented. “You shouldn’t put that word in your grandiose video.”
Some also dug up Teerachai’s darker past, when he was implicated back in July for fraud by selling substandard golds and impersonating deputy cyber police commander Pol. Col. Siriwat Deepor to pressure the victims to drop their complaint.
His case is still under police investigation.
“What about the money you embezzled from others?” user @TeePower211 wrote. “Wicked boon.”
Teerachai said on a Facebook post that he spent nearly 16 million baht for the ceremony to showcase his commitment to spread Buddhism and present Lord Buddha’s teachings through Thai art and craft.
“The Naga headband is made of 96.5 pure gold weighing at 560.92 grams and decorated with two 2.79 karat Siamese rubies,” Teerachai wrote.
“Our craftsmanship is overwhelmed with the commitment to spread Buddhism and emphasize the importance of ordination.”
“This would allow me to transcend into the essence of Buddhism through stories of Thai precious art and craft, in which our young generations can study and inherit the mastery forever.”