Torching of giant statue unnerves Rayong residents

Torching of giant statue unnerves Rayong residents

Homeless man held after extensive damage caused to sculpture of character from Sunthorn Phu epic

Flames engulf the giant statue near Saeng Chan beach in Rayong after it was set on fire by a homeless man on Saturday. The statue represents Nang Phisuea Samudra, a sea ogress and main character from Phra Aphai Mani, the famous epic poem by Sunthorn Phu. (Photo supplied)
Flames engulf the giant statue near Saeng Chan beach in Rayong after it was set on fire by a homeless man on Saturday. The statue represents Nang Phisuea Samudra, a sea ogress and main character from Phra Aphai Mani, the famous epic poem by Sunthorn Phu. (Photo supplied)

A homeless man set fire to Rayong’s famed “giant lady” statue on Saturday afternoon, and local residents now fear misfortune will result from damage to the structure.

Police who were alerted to the fire on Saeng Chan beach found local residents feverishly trying to put out flames rising as high as three metres, according to some witnesses. It reportedly took just over 10 minutes to get the blaze under control.

Authorities inspected damage to the statue and found that its torso had been burnt, with the figure’s top garment destroyed. Smaller statues of other mythical figures placed in tribute around the main sculpture were also damaged.

A local vendor, 52-year-old Ratana Deebang, said she saw a drifter circling the statue before the blaze erupted, and called on others nearby to aid in stopping the fire.

After questioning witnesses, police detained a 35-year-old man identified only as Ming, who appeared to be mentally disturbed. He was removed from the area and medical assistance was requested.

Local residents have voiced concern that the incident will lead to misfortune for the area as the statue is considered sacred. Some were seen pooling their funds to replace the burned garments.

The statue represents Nang Phisuea Samudra, a sea ogress and the main character from Phra Aphai Mani, the epic poem by the Rattanakosin era bard Sunthorn Phu (1786-1855).

The statue was originally erected to serve as a tourism landmark but gained famed after several people said they had found luck in romance after praying to it. The site is especially busy on the day before national lottery draws, locals add.

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