RAWAI, PHUKET: Outraged residents of Village 2 are demanding the immediate removal of numerous Sivaleung (Shiva’s member, or lingam) statues that decorate a newly-built spa, claiming that the phalluses will embarrass tourists and other passers-by. On January 20 Aroon Solos, President of the Rawai Tambon Administration Organization, paid a visit to the Suppaya Spa (Suppaya means “Assets of the Supreme One”), a 100-room facility located along the road from Kata to Karon. K. Aroon was not going for a massage, but rather to convey the displeasure of local residents about the wall surrounding the spa’s grounds, which is adorned with numerous pillars built in the shape of erect male penises, each inscribed with Hindi script. Work on the facility, built with Board of Investment privileges, began about three years ago, K Aroon learned. “This means the spa [and the lingam surrounding it] were built in part with government money,” K. Aroon told the Gazette. The spa is now almost complete, but has yet to begin operations, he added. K. Aroon has asked the Phuket Provincial Culture Office to try and persuade the spa to cover up or move the offending images. For some Hindu believers, the lingam are sacred symbols for the worship of the Hindu god Shiva. However there aren’t many Hinduists in Rawai, where most residents are Muslims, Thai Buddhists, new-age mystics – or just alcoholics. The statues have created a real conundrum for K. Aroon, who wants to respect the religious beliefs of the spa’s owners while at the same time quelling public outcry. During his visit, K. Aroon met with the spa’s operations manager, who explained that the statues reflected the spa owner’s religious convictions and were intended to generate brisk trade, not offend. K. Aroon told the manager the location of the statues so close to a public road was inappropriate for a tourist place such as Phuket and asked if they could be removed or covered up – although he did not say with what. As this edition goes to print, the phalluses remained proudly standing in all their lifelike glory. However, following a meeting including the spa owner, K. Aroon and a representative from Phuket Provincial Culture Office on January 26, K. Aroon told the Gazette that the spa owner had agreed to modify the statues so that the pillars will be topped instead with images of lotus flowers. In the meantime, the Gazette hears that some local residents have already taken to calling the stretch of road past the spa as “Dildo Drive” and that people are traveling from other parts of the island to view the island’s newest icons.
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