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Sculptor backs away from Facebook and other logos on Royal Garuda

May 03. 2017
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By The Nation

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Office of Traditional Arts expert sculptor Pitak Chalermlao, who is leading artisans to craft sculptures to adorn His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Royal pyre, agreed to remove the logos of Google, Facebook and Apple from a controversial Garuda statue on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Pitak said that he did not have any ill intent in designing the first version of the Garuda statue after receiving a storm of online criticism.

“The symbols in question are merely to identify the time period when His Majesty the late King passed away as they are influential for people on the Earth,” Pitak wrote on Facebook. 

“I just wanted to reflect that His Majesty the late King was like the great mirror in the East that shines into the Western world and that his projects and ideas could be applied to benefit all people in the world,” Pitak wrote. 

Pitak added that he wanted to show that the late King was a great thinker who applied the motifs of earth, wind, water and fire into various projects for the benefit of humanity. 

He also apologised to the public and thanked people for criticising the statue.

The Public Relations Department Area 1 Office Facebook fan page published the images of the Garuda statue on Monday, with Pitak explaining that the two-metre-tall Garuda statue was meant to represent the late King’s modern knowledge and ideas. 

Pitak was quoted as saying that the Garuda’s wings and belt buckle head carried the logos of Google, Apple and Facebook to reflect modernity and the multinational nature of the late King’s ideas, which had been used to solve various problems during his reign.

However, many Thai social media users criticised the logos’ inclusion as very inappropriate for a statue meant to be part of the ceremony for the highly revered King Rama IX and called for changes.

“The makers should consider appropriateness before bringing in contemporary stories into the highly important Royal funeral,” one commentator wrote. “If it is the last thing to do [to honour the late King], we should choose the best and most appropriate memories so the artisans who invest work into the pieces and members of the public will appreciate and admire rather than criticise what had been done. The claim of ignorance wouldn’t be convincing as the people who are assigned with tasks in such an important Royal ceremony should have proper knowledge and awareness of the event’s significance. Please reconsider your action.”

Another user commented: “I understand the contemporary flare, but it is inappropriate and irrelevant to this historic Royal ceremony. You must not try to think on behalf of others to link these things because that would mean you are trying to force-feed this idea. You have to take a step back and let society help to consider [the symbolism] because the matter is sensitive. It is not totally wrong, but it is inappropriate.”

A third was even more terse: “How inappropriate to mix these things into such a ceremony to honour His Majesty the late King. I totally disagree with it.”

Meanwhile, Royal crematorium designer Korkiat Thongphud said Fine Arts Department chief Anan Chuchote had called an urgent meeting and instructed artisans to remove the logos on the grounds that they were not relevant to Thai traditional beliefs regarding a Royal crematorium. Anan also said the symbols could be negatively viewed as advertising.

Korkiat said the decision to remove the logos had been made prior to the social media criticism.

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