BANGKOK – An artwork that depicts Buddha as Japanese superhero Ultraman is being severely criticized by many in Thailand for alleged insult to their faith while others have come forward to defend the paintings by a student.
Conservative lawmaker Parina Kraikup, who represents the ruling Phalang Pracharat party, wrote on her Facebook page that even if the paintings were considered okay by some people, they offended her as a Buddhist.
The backlash against the artwork made the artist, a final year art student whose name has been withheld, apologize at a temple in Nakhon Ratchasima, the northeastern state where she studies.
In a video published by local media outlets, the student said she did not mean to ridicule the faith and had looked up to Buddha’s image since her childhood.
She added as she grew up in a modern age and saw Ultraman as a hero, she had thought that Buddha could also be seen as a (super)hero.
In one of her paintings, the student of the Nakhonratchasima Rajabhat University has depicted an Ultraman figure with Buddha’s head sitting in a meditation pose while other similar figures are shown in different martial art positions.
The young artist has also received some support on social media.
Famous Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipal said on Facebook that he felt sad by people attacking the student, adding that the imagination of young artists varied according to the characteristics of the new generation.
Chalermchai, known for his White temple art exhibit in the Chiang Rai province which resembles a Buddhist temple, said bravery was often criticized, which led to the youngsters being afraid and not being able to perform.
Although Thailand does not have an official religion, offenses against religious beliefs are punishable by up to seven years in prison, and films with scenes which could be seen as offensive to Buddhism are often censored.
Notices in English at tourist places remind visitors that using Buddha figures for decoration or as tattoos is considered offensive in the country.