American man with Thai wife pisses off neighbors with many decorative Buddha heads

Photo: Sanook
Photo: Sanook

Thai authorities ordered an American man with a Thai wife to remove 33 Buddha heads that he put up as decoration around the fence of his Chiang Mai home, following complaints from upset locals.

Yesterday, wife Nuanchan Sonchantuek, 34, had the Buddha heads removed from the property to comply with requests from the police and headman of Pae Khwang village, in Chiang Mai. The Thai woman said that she and her husband were practicing Buddhists and didn’t mean to offend anyone.

“We love art. He [my husband] bought a lot of paintings and has a lot of Buddha images. We think it’s right, but people think it’s not. So, if people are upset, we’ll take the Buddha heads down. All we wanted was to live here peacefully,” Nuanchan told Morning News yesterday.

Photo: Sanook
Photo: Sanook

In Thailand, where 95 percent of citizens are Buddhists, treating Buddha images as decoration is considered offensive since they are meant to be worshipped and properly displayed on a pedestal.

Nuanchan said that she and her husband, only identified as a 68-year-old American, built their house in Paw Khawng eight months ago and bought a total of 70 Buddha heads from a shop in the Hangdong district in Chiang Mai.

They have put up 33 heads around the fence while the rest were meant to be painted and placed around other parts of their property.

Following the complaint, Nuanchan said they will discretely put the Buddha heads inside their home instead.

Hope it’s a big house since there are, apparently, 70 heads to accommodate.

There is a campaign from a Buddhist organization called “Knowing Buddha” that aims to educate and stop foreigners from doing exactly this sort of thing. They place billboards and signage to educate people about the religious sensitivity. They appear on the highway near Suvarnabhumi and around Chatuchak Market, where many tourists buy Buddha trinkets.

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