Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Sermphan Sirikong announced the arrest through a statement issued this morning (Feb 28), but did not name the man.
The search for the man began after police were alerted to a man dressed as a monk soliciting donations from people at the Phuket Town Fresh Market 2 on Ong Sim Phai Rd in Phuket Town on Saturday (Feb 26).
The same man was later caught on video stripping naked in a field across the road from the main post office on Montri Rd in Phuket Town in order to change into layman’s clothes.
Phuket Provincial Police Chief Col Sarawut Chuprasit was tasked with leading the search for the man.
Officers from Phuket City Police along with representatives of the Phuket branch of the National Office of Buddhism tracked down the man, who was unable to present his official identification to prove that he was a monk (Baht Sutthi Phra), Maj Gen Sermphan said.
The man was taken to Wat Mongkhon Nimit (Wat Klang) in Phuket Town to meet with the abbot there, who also confirmed that the man was not a monk.
He was also taken back to the field on Montri Rd to re-enact for police where he changed from monk’s robes into layman’s clothes.
The man has been charged under Section 208 of the Criminal Code, Maj Gen Sermphan confirmed.
Section 208, under ‘Offences Related to Religion’, stipulates that it is a crime to “wrongfully dressing or using the symbol manifesting that oneself to be Buddhist monk or novice, holy man or clergyman of any religion so as to make the other person to believe that oneself to be such person”.
The penalty is up to one year in jail or a fine of up to B20,000, Maj Gen Sermphan noted.
“The man will be prosecuted in accordance with the law,” he said.