NAKHON RATCHASIMA — A provincial governor said Friday he will file legal actions against a woman who photoshopped her face onto a statue of a heroine widely revered by the locals.
Korat governor Wichian Janotai said that a woman was “mentally deficient” and would face criminal charges for posting the photoshopped image on social media, the latest case of outrage over perceived insults of historical figures in Thailand.
“I condemn this ill-intentioned person who inappropriately photoshopped Ya Mo’s picture. They are definitely mentally deficient. Ya Mo is a woman warrior respected by not just our province, but the entire country for her brave acts,” Wichian said. “Only a crazy person would disparage her.”
Thao Suranari, who the people of Korat fondly called Yamo, or Grandma Mo, lived from 1771–1852. A wife of Korat governor at the time, Thao Suranari was best known for leading troops to fight Laotian raiders in the province, though modern historians cast doubt on the authenticity of her historical identity.
Wichian said provincial lawyers are already looking at using defamation law to prosecute the Facebooker.
The photoshopped image was first posted by a Facebook user who goes by the name “Je La Return” with a caption “Don’t wai that Mo woman anymore, wai me,” along with a spoof prayer.
Her social media profile suggests she works as a pretty, or promotional model. As of Friday, she changed her Facebook name to Sutida Vichean and apologized, though she ended her contrition on a racially charged tone:
“I’m sorry to all Thais for what I did. Please give me the chance to make it right. Thais are kind, please forgive me. We’re all Thais, unlike Isaan people who are all set on revenge.”
Sutida’s page is being flooded with angry comments as of publication time.
“How dare you mock Ya Mo. You won’t die well. Everyone prostrates and worships her, but you do such denigrate acts? I hope your parents hang themselves because of a daughter like you. You won’t be happy ever again. How dare you mock my grandma,” user Chompoo Jump wrote.
Thao Suranari was awarded her royal name by King Rama III, and her statue in Korat city is a popular object of veneration, drawing hundreds of worshipers each day.
In 1996, large protests fueled by local politicians broke out in Korat against a book published by Matichon Group, which argued that there was little contemporary evidence confirming Thao Suranai’s role in battles against Laotian invaders.
In response to the death threats and book burnings, Matichon Group recalled the books while the author had to resign from her teaching position in Korat.