A statue of an evil ghost overlooks a garden depicting a Buddhist version of hell at the Wat Saeng Suk temple in the Thai coastal province of Chonburi on July 9, 2020. (Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)
The makers of a popular Thai television program, whose purported mission is to uncover myriad supernatural forces around Thailand, are facing a backlash from local Buddhists over their "ahistorical" depiction of a famed local heroine.In a recent episode, the creators of a television program called "Chong Song Phee" ("The Real Ghosts") claimed to reveal new information about Thao Suranari (1771-1852), the wife of a provincial deputy governor in the early 19th century, a revered figure in a part of northeastern Thailand.Legend says Lady Mo, as she is popularly known, played a crucial part in helping beat back an invading Lao army in 1826 by organizing a revolt among captive Siamese soldiers.
Samarn Thitipongtub, president of the Lady Mo Conservation Group, concurred, arguing that the television program's allegation besmirched the reputation of Lady Mo and her family."The show disrespects Lady Mo and destroys her and [her adopted daughter's] virtue," Samarn said.
Exploitation of beliefs
Yet many locals see the case as more than just a subversion of history.They see it as another egregious example of some unscrupulous people exploiting widespread beliefs in the supernatural for their benefit in the predominantly Buddhist nation where fear of ghosts persists."They should research historical facts before going on air like this," said Wichien Chantaranotai, governor of Nakhon Ratchasima province. "They cannot claim something by contacting ghosts. It's not science," Wichien said. "Everything they said contradicts Thai history and what we have learned our whole lives [about Lady Mo]." Recently a Thai woman was reported to police for photoshopping her face onto Lady Mo's bronze statue and posting the image on Facebook. In the end, the police decided not to charge her with any crime.It is not the first time that the makers of "Chong Song Phee" have landed in hot water for making dubious claims on air based on alleged revelations communicated by supernatural entities. In another recent episode, which featured them visiting a school, the show's medium claimed that the institution's late principal remained as a tormented ghost in the school, anguished over his corrupt and immoral conduct while he was alive.The principal's family filed a defamation lawsuit against the show makers.
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