Google's Street View project to map the world by taking pictures from passing cars ignited a minor uproar in northern Thailand where villagers detained a driver and made him swear on a Buddha statue that he was not surveying the area for an unwanted dam project. Villagers in Phrae province have now apologised for mistaking the Google worker for a government snoop.
Deeprom Phongphon was stopped by villagers at Ban Sa-iap, in Song district of the northern province, on Tuesday as he drove through in a marked Google car with a camera attached to a turret. Villagers suspected him of being sent by the government to conduct a survey for a controversial dam project that has stirred local opposition.
They surrounded the man's car, questioned him and then took him to Wat Don Chai in the village to swear in front of a statue of Buddha that he was not working for the government. Devout locals said the man would face bad luck within a week if he lied in front of the Buddha's image. "Villagers apologise to Google for the misunderstanding that he came to survey the area to build the dam," a spokesperson for locals opposing the Kaeng Suea Ten dam said later.
The spokesperson also said that villagers will welcome Google if the firm sends a worker to the area in the future. Acknowledging the incident, a Google spokesman said the company "sometimes encounters unexpected challenges, and Street View has been no exception". But he insisted Google "abides by Thailand's local laws, and only features imagery taken on public property".