Thai authorities deported 20 Cambodian monks through the Poipet International Checkpoint on Saturday after they illegally crossed into Thailand to seek alms, an immigration official said Monday.
Sem Makara, deputy immigration police chief at the checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province, said Thai authorities arrested the monks in Chachoengsao province.
“The Thai side sent the monks back on March 7 at 8:45 a.m.,” Mr. Makara said, adding that they were deported along with a number of migrant workers who had also illegally crossed the border.
“Since I’ve been based here, the Thai side has sent monks back two or three times, but I have never seen such large number like this,” he said. “Usually, it’s just three or five monks.”
Thai police spokesman Prawut Thawornsiri could not be reached for comment.
According to Mr. Makara, who has been stationed at the checkpoint for nearly seven months, the monks entered Thailand via an unofficial crossing.
He added that it was difficult for police to question the monks because under Buddhist doctrine, they cannot aggressively interrogate them.
“We can strictly ask ordinary people, but they are monks,” he said. “Normally, people who did something wrong and against the law never tell the truth because they always keep saying ‘no.’”
Non Nget, Supreme Patriarch of the Mohanikaya sect of Buddhism, said he was not aware of the case, but that the Thai government had the right to deport the monks because they had broken Buddhist rules.
“This is up to the Thai government,” Non Nget said. “It’s fine that they were sent back from Thailand in this way, but it will be shameful for them if they are arrested and defrocked.”
In December, the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court charged four men with impersonating monks after they were arrested in Poipet City upon their return from Thailand. Following their arrest, the men confessed to spending the previous month collecting alms across the border.
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