A Buddhist temple in Thailand has been left without any monks after they tested positive for drugs and were defrocked, according to AFP.
The four monks serving at a temple in the central Thai province of Phetchabun tested positive for methamphetamine on Monday, district official Boonlert Thintapthai told the outlet.
“The temple is now empty of monks and nearby villagers are concerned they cannot do any merit-making,” he said.
Merit-making is the Buddhist practice of followers donating food to monks as a good deed, the report noted.
The disgraced monks have been sent to drug rehabilitation, the report added. New monks will be sent to the temple to continue its operation in the days ahead, Boonlert said.
Another Thai monk named Phra Annipalo, 34, was arrested earlier this month on drug charges after allegedly carjacking two vehicles and fleeing from police.
Last month, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha spoke out regarding drug use in the country after a former police officer who was dismissed over methamphetamine possession killed 37 people during a shooting at a nursery.
At least 23 children were among those killed in the rampage. Some victims were as young as two. The former officer later took his own life.
“After inspecting the crime scene, we found that the perpetrator tried to break in and he mainly used a knife to commit the crime by killing a number of small children,” said Police Chief Damrongsak Kittiprapat, according to the BBC.
The prime minister “ordered provincial governors to strengthen drug prevention plans to tackle problems in their areas,” a government spokesperson said in a statement after the attack.
Thailand is a major crossroads for methamphetamine trafficking from the Golden Triangle, which encompasses Myanmar, Laos, and northern Thailand, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
“Criminal organizations have adapted and innovated, and it is impossible for countries to address transnational crime alone.” UNODC Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas said in May.
“In the last two years, methamphetamine seizures in Southeast Asia have increased from 140 tons to close to 170 tons, and this trend is continuing — instability in the Golden Triangle and Shan State are contributing, and Thailand and Lao PDR need support for border control,” he added.
More than one billion methamphetamine tablets were seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2021, according to the agency, totaling 172 tons of the addictive substance.
“The total is seven times higher than it was 10 years ago, when just more than 143 million tablets were seized, and over thirty-five times higher than it was close to 20 years ago,” UNODC stated in a June report.