Oh my Buddha! Culture crackdown underway in Phuket

PHUKET: The Phuket office of the Ministry of Culture is on the lookout for the inappropriate use of Buddha images following the shocking revelation that one foreign restaurant owner modified a Buddha image to serve as a garden fountain – one that spouted water from the crown of its head.

Phuket Culture Office director Tawichart Intorrarit said on Wednesday that the sacrilegious lawn ornament, spotted in the garden in a restaurant on Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Road in Patong, was a sign that many foreigners who visit Phuket understand little about Thai culture.

Buddha images must be constructed according to a detailed set of body proportions to represent the Buddha’s perfect harmony, both physical and spiritual.

The apex of the head, referred to in ancient texts as the “enlightenment elevation” point, is a symbol of the Buddha’s greatest enlightenment.

Mr Tawichart said that the foreigner’s decision to place a plumbing nozzle there was not a deliberate attempt at sacrilege, but borne out of ignorance.

The offending statue has since been removed and the owner has not been charged with any crime, Mr Tawichart said after a meeting of the newly-established Safe and Creative Media Development Committee at Phuket Provincial Hall on Wednesday morning.

The public should report other inappropriate uses of Buddhist icons to his office, which lacks the manpower to make thorough inspections over the entire island, he said.

Informers could also report the presence of sexually-explicit displays in inappropriate areas, especially those catering to children, he said.

Culture officers will keep a close eye on computer gaming shops, karaoke bars and Internet cafes to make sure they are free of pornography, he said.

Shop owners must cooperate by installing CCTV surveillance cameras and ensuring their shops are porn-free, he added.

Mr Tawichart said the establishment of the new committee, which includes representatives from the media, should help increase awareness and better involve the public in the fight to preserve Thai culture.

— Atchaa Khamlo & S. Fein

Phuket News

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