‘Ultraman Buddha’ Art Prompts Police Complaint

A police complaint has been lodged against a young artist over paintings that depict images of the Buddha as the 1960s Japanese superhero character Ultraman.

The complaint relates to four paintings, displayed last week at a shopping mall in northeastern Thailand. Our picture shows the usual character depiction rather than pictures of the paintings in deference to the sensitivities of the matter.

The painting was removed from the exhibition last week and the artist – a fourth-year university student apologised to northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province’s chief monk.

However a Buddhist group said it had filed a police complaint against the artist and four others involved in the exhibition, on the grounds that comparing the Buddha to an action figure was disrespectful.

The group wants the five prosecuted under a law against insulting religion that allows imprisonment of up to seven years.

“The paintings dishonored and offended Buddhists and harmed a national treasure,” Buddhist Power of the Land representative Charoon Wonnakasinanone told Reuters.

On of the paintings was auctioned off for 600,000 baht on Thursday, despite the legal threats. The group also wanted the paintings destroyed.

Pakorn Porncheewarakun, an art collector who sold one of the four paintings in the “Ultraman Buddha” collection, announced on Facebook that he will give 100,000 baht of the proceeds to the student artist in the form of a scholarship. The rest will go to a hospital in Nakhon Ratchasima, the province where the student resides.

Pakorn refused to name the buyer. He claims that he and his friends bought the paintings from the artist for 4,500 baht each.

Thailand’s official Buddhist authorities oppose criminal charges against the artist. Breaking Section 206 of Thai law, which covers insulting or defaming the religion, can be punishable by up to seven years in jail, a fine as high as THB14,000

Few have been jailed under the law, though there have been some cases of fines, including against tourists with Buddha tattoos or souvenir statues.