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Monk’s image on American brand shirt draws criticism from Thai Buddhists



PHOTO: Supreme

The American clothing brand Supreme is under fire for using an image of a revered monk as well as several Buddhist “yant” designs on a line of shirts they’re calling “Blessings Ripstop Shirt.” Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism says they plan to submit a letter to the clothing company for using the image of the well-known and respected monk without permission and explain why the use of the image is inappropriate.

In addition to reaching out to the clothing company, the office will also ask Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society Ministry to investigate the images of the shirts shared online, according to Sipboworn Kaewngam, an inspector at the National Office of Buddhism.

The late monk Luang Phor Koon Parisutho of Wat Ban Rai in Nakhon Ratchasima was widely popular in Thailand. Many believed the amulets and talismans were magical and could even protect the some from gunshots. Many visited him for blessings. He died in 2015 at age 91. He donated his body to Khon Kaen University to be studied by medical students. His body was then cremated in 2019. Thousands attended the royally-sponsored ceremony.

The image on the shirts, which come in black, blue and camouflage, show Luang Phor Koon smoking. A close relative to the late monk told the Bangkok Post that he suspects the photo was taken around 2002 or 2003 with the monk’s permission to raise money for Wat Ban Rai.

He says the temple never made shirts with the monk’s image because the shirts could need up in inappropriate places when they are worn out. Thais typically do not throw away religious photos or other items because it is seen as disrespectful. Buddhists in Thailand also usually do not use religious images for decoration, like on T-shirts.

Supreme apparently did not contact Wat Ban Rai before using the monk image on the shirt, according to temple official Tawatchai Saenprasit. He says the company should’ve asked for permission.

“The temple committee will discuss the issue and find out what the brand’s purpose is.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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