The handsome Buddhist monk had a huge social media following, a prodigious gift for fundraising and a clear path to becoming Thailand’s youngest abbot.
But he also had a fateful secret plan to go star-gazing with a beautiful older woman.
The subsequent implosion of Pongsakorn Chankaew’s spiritual career amid lurid reports of sex trysts and embezzled hush money is now a national scandal.
It has fuelled calls this month for the reform of the country’s “rotten” clerical system as Thais have flocked to temples to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha on one of their religion’s holiest days. The recently disrobed monk has been left trying to make ends meet by promoting traditional snacks online and hoping for a record contract.