Facebook group against superstition in Thailand stirs debate

A Facebook group has sparked online uproar in Thailand after ridiculing the placing of statues at dangerous road spots to ward off evil spirits, in a country where belief in the occult and supernatural is deeply held. -- PHOTO: AFP
A Facebook group has sparked online uproar in Thailand after ridiculing the placing of statues at dangerous road spots to ward off evil spirits, in a country where belief in the occult and supernatural is deeply held. -- PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - A Facebook group has sparked online uproar in Thailand after ridiculing the placing of statues at dangerous road spots to ward off evil spirits, in a country where belief in the occult and supernatural is deeply held.

The photo, which went viral this week, showed a man's foot standing on a row of zebra figurines at a busy road junction in Bangkok known locally as "Kong Roi Sop" - the curve that claims 100 lives.

Zebra statues are a common sight at locations where road fatalities occur under the belief that their stripes - which remind people of pedestrian crossings - will fend off the ghosts that many believe cause crashes.

But the Thai founder of a Facebook group called "Fuckghosts", which has more than 200,000 likes and posted the picture, said he wanted to challenge those beliefs.

"There are far too many superstitions or instances of people being besotted in Thailand and it annoys me," the man, who declined to give his name fearing reprisals, told AFP. "I wanted to show there are people out there who do not believe in superstition," he added.

The photo, which he said was taken earlier this month, has been picked up and shared thousands of times on social media.

"Show the middle finger... (to) ghosts", one Thai user named Thanakiet Thongchai wrote under the post in a message of support. "I do not understand why the heck we have these zebra statues?", asked another Facebook user.

But other Thais were less than impressed by the image in a country where superstitious beliefs are deep rooted - and stepping on something sacred is considered hugely disrespectful. "I hope that ghosts come to haunt you and stop you sleeping," one user wrote under the name "Sweetie November".

"If you don't believe in superstitions why do you have to challenge it?", asked another using the name Wiriya Sodapattipon.

Superstition and belief in ghosts is commonplace in Thailand, a nation still deeply influenced by pre-Buddhist animist beliefs.

Drivers often wear amulets to protect themselves on the country's notoriously dangerous roads while leader of the ruling junta, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, last year accused his opponents of trying to wield black magic against him.

The founder of the Facebook group said superstition caused real harm, with people preferring to put their faith in a statue than take their own safety precautions.