Ex-abbot gets 160 years for rapes

A FORMER Buddhist abbot has been sentenced to 160 years in prison for raping nine underage girls living at his temple west of the Thai capital, court officials said today.

Chamlong Khonsue, 55, known as Pra Pawana Buddho when he presided over the Sampran Temple in Nakhon Pathom province, was convicted along with six former nuns who procured the girls for him between 1988 and 1995.

The Criminal Court found Chamlong guilty of 28 counts of rape, molestation and attempted rape on the girls, all aged under 15 and from the hill tribes who live in Thailand's northern region bordering Myanmar.

Under Thai law, he will serve a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

The former nuns, who were found guilty of luring the girls to the temple for Chamlong to molest, were given sentences ranging between 10 and 30 years.

Chamlong's conviction is the latest in a series of scandals involving Thailand's Buddhist clergy which have tarnished its reputation in recent years.

In 2002, a monk was charged with embezzling 95 million baht ($3.38 million) from his temple, and a monk brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle stormed the Thai parliament and took 20 staff hostage before he was overpowered.

The previous year, another abbot was forced to quit after being caught with prostitutes in karaoke bars, while another was accused of raping an 11-year-old girl and another was censured for amassing a collection of 60 classic cars.

This week, a prominent monk agreed to strip corporate sponsorship logos from his famous Bangkok temple after the brash advertisements caused an uproar in the deeply religious kingdom.