Student broke no laws with Buddha-Ultraman

Thammasat University (TU) law lecturer Prinya Thaewanarumitkul has offered legal aid to the fourth-year Nakhon Ratchasima university student who is being targeted for depicting Buddha as Ultraman in paintings that were displayed in a shopping mall exhibition early this month.

Prinya, who is also vice rector for administration and sustainability at the TU Rangsit campus, said he doesn’t believe the student has violated any laws with her paintings.

In a Facebook post, Prinya said Buddhists should realise that Buddha images were first created by Greek artists 500 years after Lord Buddha’s passing, and that the facial features of these statues were like those of Greek gods. He also pointed out that the face of Ultraman, designed by Thai filmmaker and special-effects creator Sompote Saengduenchai, was inspired by a Sukhothai-era Buddha image. Sompote developed the Ultraman character while he was working for Tsuburaya Productions. “I was awestruck by the Buddha-Ultraman paintings and did not find them insulting. Buddhism teaches ‘detachment’ not ‘attachment’.

Buddha’s teachings in Pali say ‘sabbe dhamma nalang abhiniwesaya’ or ‘do not get attached to things’. If someone is unhappy about the Buddha-Ultraman paintings, they can express their dissatisfaction with moderation without getting too attached to the argument. Forcing the student to apologise to monks was already a step too far, and filing a police complaint against her was ridiculous,” he said. Prinya added that as a law expert, he cannot see what law the student has broken and that the matter can only be seen from a what is “appropriate or inappropriate” viewpoint.“If the police take the complaint up for prosecution, I will help the student fight the legal battle,” he added.

Earlier this week, the “Chao Phut Phalang Phaendin” (Buddhists who are the power of the land) group filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division against the student, her teacher and exhibition organisers. They also demanded that national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat and well-known lawyer Decha Kittiwithiyanan be arrested for publicly supporting the student. The group claims the five individuals violated the Penal Code’s Article 206 (anything done to an object or place of worship of any group or persons in a manner that is likely to insult them).

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