Apple, Facebook and Google logos have been removed from a giant statue of a mythical beast that will stand inside the sprawling cremation complex being built for Thailand’s late king after their inclusion caused an online outcry. Dozens of palace artisans are working around the clock to produce a dizzying array of sculptures for the funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October – a year after the deeply revered monarch’s death plunged the nation into mourning. One of the leading artists included logos for the tech giants on a two-metre tall statue of the Garuda – a half-bird- half-human creature in Hindu and Buddhist mythology – as a way of paying tribute to Bhumibol’s embrace of technology. But their inclusion sparked a backlash when photos of the statue were published online, prompting their removal and an apology from the artist.
“I have to apologise, I did this job to show my pride for His Majesty like everyone else,” artist Pitak Chalermlao said in a Facebook post showing the logos had been removed. He added that Bhumibol “was a thinker” who “made the world a smaller place” and that those tech companies became influential during his reign. The Apple and Google logos were nestled in the centre of each of the Garuda’s wings while a Facebook logo was etched onto the animal’s belt buckle. Netizens were largely against the inclusion. “I think it was not suitable for a cremation site,” one user wrote on the popular Thai forum Pantip.
Another added: “Apple, Google and Facebook would have smiled at such free advertising during a key event.” Cremations for senior Thai royals are huge, arcane and costly affairs, but a monarch’s funeral – the last one was in 1950 – is on an even more monumental scale. The 50-metre high funeral complex springing up outside Bangkok’s Grand Palace will be adorned with hundreds of statues, from Hindu gods to animals and mythical beasts. The cremation will take place on October 26 as part of a five day send-off planned for the monarch.
His rule spanned seven tumultuous decades that witnessed significant economic growth but saw democratic aspirations wilt under the weight of multiple palace-endorsed coups. The monarchy is also shielded by a draconian lese majeste law that has seen critics sentenced to decades behind bars. The law was used more frequently towards the end of Bhumibol’s reign, often for comments posted on social media.