Tue Mar 21, 2006 8:53 AM IST
BANGKOK (Reuters) – A mentally-ill Muslim smashed a landmark Hindu statue in central Bangkok which was worshipped by people of many religions and was then beaten to death, police said on Tuesday.
Thanakorn Pakdeepol broke into the shrine housing the four-faced statue of Brahma, venerated by Hindus as the creator and to whom people prayed for anything from a child to winning the lottery, in the early hours of the morning, they said.
He then used a hammer to smash the statue, which has drawn tourists from around Asia to the shrine beside the five star Erawan hotel, where U.S. President George W. Bush stayed during a state visit in 2003.
"After a scream from a street vendor shouting our father was destroyed, I saw three or four men arresting that man and beating him up," taxi driver Somyos Srikamsuk told Channel 3 television. "He was unconscious, but still alive when police got there."
Two cleaners of the shrine were arrested and charged with murder, Police Colonel Supisan Pakdeenarunart told the television station.
Thanakorn, 27, had been in and out of mental hospitals over the past 10 years, said his father, Sayan.
People who believed the statue had granted their wishes offer gifts, with carved wooden elephants the most popular, and pay for Thai classical dances, making the shrine a lively spot.
A sign at the shrine says it was built 50 years ago to protect the Erawan hotel because the foundation stone was laid on an inauspicious day.
Police cordoned off the shrine compound with yellow tape and the statue itself was draped in white sheets. Offerings of yellow garlands and lotus flowers lay nearby.
Dozens of people gathered on the pavement, clasping their hands in silent prayer and lighting incense sticks and candles.
"This is so sad. It cannot be good luck," said tourist San Trinh, a 50-year-old Cambodian living in California.
He visited the shrine a few years ago after his sister had been denied permission twice to visit the United States. But after he made offerings at the shrine, she was granted a visa.
"Many people really believe in this place," he told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan)