Former abbot arrested on fake ID charge

Forged identities sold to 300 illegal migrants

Published: 9/03/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

A former senior monk suspected of heading a major identification card forgery gang and two other suspected members have been arrested in separate raids in Phangnga and Nakhon Phanom provinces.

The three were among five men subject to arrest warrants for their suspected involvement in the forgery of ID cards for nearly 300 people, mostly foreign workers.

They were arrested by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

The three were identified as Veera Pakdee, a Burmese national from the Pa-O tribe, who was arrested in the southern province of Phangnga where he was the acting abbot of Wat Yanyao in Takua Pa district, DSI deputy chief Suchart Wongananchai said.

The other two suspects, Pornsri Sonpaeng and Duangjai Lehkol, were arrested in the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom.

All three have been charged with falsifying official documents, filing false statements with state authorities and causing damage to others.

Mr Veera reportedly entered Thailand illegally about 10 years ago and was later ordained as a monk.

He served as a senior monk at Wat Yanyao for five years before his appointment as acting abbot. He quit the monkhood on Jan 19 following a conflict over temple funds with the temple committee.

Pol Col Suchart said Mr Veera, then a monk at Wat Yanyao, and his gang members had falsified documents for their clients, mostly alien workers. Each customer was asked to pay 100,000 baht for a fake ID card which was later used to apply for the government's universal health care scheme.

Some also used the cards to pursue non-formal education.

The DSI deputy chief said many alien workers sneaked into the country and entered the monkhood to escape police arrest. They later paid for fake ID cards to remain in the country.

The DSI is hunting the other two gang members still at large.

Pol Col Suchart said he would coordinate with the Interior Ministry's Provincial Administration Department in its investigation to see whether any officials were involved in the scam.

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