An auction organizer poses next to an
An auction organizer poses next to an "Ultraman Buddha" painting which sold for 2 million baht on Sep. 13, 2019. Image: ปกรณ์ พรชีวางกูร / Facebook

BANGKOK — Hardline Buddhists on Monday said they have withdrawn charges of religious sabotage against a student who depicted Buddha as a Japanese superhero in now-viral paintings, but vowed other legal prosecution will continue.

The group, who calls itself “Buddhist Power of the Land,” said it only dropped complaints against the student because its own investigation discovered that a larger plot is at work to “destroy Buddhism.” The second painting in the controversial collection sold for 2 million baht on Friday.

“The student was paid to do this. That’s her business,” group representative Pattachan Vichienrat said in an interview. “But now we know there’s a large network conspiring to destroy Buddhism. Now that we know this much information, the police must expand their investigation.”

Read: Junta Party MP Condemns ‘Ultraman Buddha’

Pattachan spoke hours after he and fellow activists met with officers at the Crime Suppression Division, where they handed over information about the alleged conspiracy to the police. Pattachan declined to elaborate but said the shadowy organization has its agents everywhere.

“They have infiltrated the bureaucracy and the entire country. I can assure you, if we don’t rise up right now, within the next four years Buddhists will be second class citizens,” Pattachan said.

His complaints accused the unnamed elements of violating the constitution, which states that Buddhism must be upheld. Capt. Sunthorn Thongmanee, who received the complaints from the group today, said he’ll report to his supervisors regarding further action.

Pattachan said he hopes police will take up the investigation due to the serious nature of the alleged scheme.

“It could even be considered a national security threat,” he said.

The paintings that offended the Buddhist group were drawn by a student in Korat whose full name has not been disclosed to the public. The pictures replace the body of Buddha with those of the superhero Ultraman. The student has said she intended to depict Buddha as a universal hero.

One of the paintings was auctioned for 600,000 baht last week, while another netted 2 million baht in Friday’s bidding.

Organizers said about 260,000 baht of the money will go to the painter’s education funds, while the rest will be donated to hospitals.