By Wilawan Watcharasakwej and 

Bryan Pietsch

December 1, 2022

All four monks in the temple, including the abbot, were found to be using drugs. (Fred Froese/Getty Images/iStock)

BANGKOK — A small Buddhist temple in northern Thailand has been left without monks after the entire monastery was found to have been using methamphetamine, according to local officials.

Following orders to investigate drug use in Phetchabun province, the sheriff and village headman in Bung Sam Phan subdistrict, some 150 miles north of Bangkok, poked around schools, factories and temples in search of drug addicts and dealers so they could be sent for rehabilitation.

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“As a community leader, I was frightened because I never thought the monks would be addicted to drugs,” said Sungyut Namburi, the village headman. “I never thought that drugs would spread to temples.”

Monks are revered figures in Thai culture; in Bangkok’s metro system, seats are reserved for them alongside pregnant and elderly individuals. Particularly in rural areas outside Bangkok, monks are trusted advisers, often serving as counselors and role models to the community.

So it was much to Sungyut’s surprise that all four monks in one small temple tested positive for methamphetamine use when he and the sheriff paid a visit to the monastery Friday. At another small temple, two monks tested positive, he said.

But the writing was on the wall: The monks’ personality and behavior gave them away as drug users, Sungyut said. Some villagers had tipped him off, telling him to check on temples in the community.

Even the abbot — the head of the monastery, who had served as a monk for 10 years — was found to be using drugs. “When I inspected the abbot’s shelter, I was stunned because it was a mess,” Sungyut said. After the drug tests came back positive, he said, the monks confessed to using drugs. Some of them admitted to being longtime addicts.

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