The Erawan Shrine (Thai: ศาลพระพรหม, San Phra Phrom) is a Hindu shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, that houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu creation god Brahma. A popular tourist attraction, it often features performances by resident Thai dance troupes, who are hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers at the shrine answered. On 21 March 2006, a man vandalised the shrine and was killed by bystanders. However, two months after the incident a new Brahma statue was completed and placed in the shrine on 21 May 2006.
The shrine is located by the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, at the Ratchaprasong intersection of Ratchadamri Road in Pathum Wan district, Bangkok, Thailand. It is near the Bangkok Skytrain's Chitlom Station, which has an elevated walkway overlooking the shrine. The area has many shopping malls nearby, including Gaysorn, CentralWorld and Amarin Plaza.
The Erawan Shrine was built in 1956 as part of the government-owned Erawan Hotel to eliminate the bad karma believed caused by laying the foundations on the wrong date.
The hotel's construction was delayed by a series of mishaps, including cost overruns, injuries to laborers, and the loss of a shipload of Italian marble intended for the building. Furthermore, the Ratchaprasong Intersection had once been used to put criminals on public display.
An astrologer advised building the shrine to counter the negative influences. The Brahma statue was designed and built by the Department of Fine Arts and enshrined on 9 November 1956. The hotel's construction thereafter proceeded without further incident. In 1987, the hotel was demolished and the site used for the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.
In the early hours of 21 March 2006, the shrine was vandalised by a Thai man believed to be mentally ill. After smashing the statue with a hammer, 27-year-old Thanakorn Pakdeepol was himself beaten to death by angry bystanders. Two street sweepers who worked for the Pathum Wan district office were arrested and charged with the fatal beating.
Witnesses said Thanakorn stood on the base of the statue with a large hammer in his hands, and smashed the hollow statue to pieces. The deity's four-faced head, torso, six arms and weapons were fragmented. Only part of the lap and base of the statue were left intact. The incident occurred at about 1:00 am.
A white cloth was put up to conceal the absence of the statue. The shrine was closed to the public for some time, but officials later reopened the site, displaying photographs of the statue so that worshippers could continue to pay their respects.
The new Brahma statue was completed and placed in the shrine on 21 May 2006 at 11:39 am, the time the sun was shining directly above the shrine. According to officials with the Religious Affairs Department and the Maha Brahma Foundation, it was made of plaster, mixed with a mixture of gold, bronze and other precious metals, along with pieces of the old statue. Another statue, made wholly of metal, was cast from the same mold, and will be kept in the National Museum.
During an autopsy of Thanakorn Pakdeepol, the vandal who destroyed the revered statue, doctors found Arabic characters tattooed on his back and arms, prompting police to investigate whether the attack had a religious motive and if Thanakorn or his family had any ties to Muslim extremists.
However, the slain man's father, Sayant Pakdeepol, said his son had received treatment for psychiatric problems in recent years and that the mental illness was the cause for the attack. Sayant called the beating to death of his son an "overreaction". "Doing something like this is not the act of people with good beliefs, of those with real faith in Brahma," Sayant was quoted as saying by The Nation. "Murder is an immoral act and people with morality would not have done what they did."
At an anti-Thaksin rally on 22 March, government critic Sondhi Limthongkul charged that the destruction of the statue was a plot by a superstitious Thaksin who was seeking to maintain power through black magic. The vandal's father dismissed that notion, and was quoted by The Nation as saying that Sondhi is "the biggest liar I have ever seen." Thaksin, when asked to comment on Sondhi's accusations, simply replied: "That's insane."
- Much-revered Phra Prom statue destroyed, The Nation, 21 March 2006 (retrieved on 4 January 2007).
- McGirk, Jan (22 March 2006) "Attack on Thai statue seen as bad omen for beleaguered Thaksin", The Independent (retrieved on 4 January 2007).
- A visit to the old Erawan Hotel, 2Bangkok.com (retrieved on 4 January 2007).
- Poo, Monthathip (22 March 2006). "Man beaten to death after desecrating the Erawan Shrine", The Nation (retrieved on 4 January 2007).
- Erawan Shrine statue restored, The Nation, 22 May 2006 (retrieved on 4 January 2007).
- Wannabovorn, Sutin (22 March 2006). "Police probing whether attacker of sacred shrine in Thailand was Muslim extremist", Associated Press via San Diego Union-Tribune (retrieved on 4 January 2007).
- "Vandal's dad distraught", The Nation, print edition, Page 4A (23 March 2006).
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