Brahma statue and flower offerings at the Erawan Shrine

Bangkok, Thailand

A mentally-ill man has smashed the Brahma statue at Bangkok's Erawan shrine, probably the most popular of the many small shrines in the Thai capital. Two onlookers caught the man as he fled and beat him to death.

I don't think that the statue was of any great antiquity or special beauty, but the shrine itself is endearing, a little fenced enclosure squeezed onto a corner adjoining two noisy main roads, with a branch of the Skytrain passing almost overhead. It's busy day and night with people matter-of-factly coming in off the street to make offerings of flowers or incense. Those with more money can pay for a brief dance performance, or even dedicate an elephant statue (a small herd of pachyderms in wood and cement, some smeared with tiny squares of gold leaf, waits patiently against the left-hand wall). It's a part of Bangkok daily life, a splash of color amid the concrete. For it to be associated now with an act of pointless destruction and an even more pointless death is sad.