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

Caitlin Ashworth



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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  1. Avatar


    Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 10:44 am

    Oh boohoo get over it.

    Can put whatever they want in their clothing.

    • Avatar


      Friday, February 19, 2021 at 7:05 am

      No you can’t

  2. Avatar

    Grumpy John

    Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 11:26 am

    Supreme simply didn’t know the truth….it’s all about the money! But, it can be easily fixed.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 1:57 pm

      No, Grumpy J, it’s not “all about the money”.

      It’s all about respect for other people and their beliefs.

      • Avatar


        Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 2:39 pm

        John, you are aware that this is like the smallest fraction Buddhists, doing these actions and stuff? The majority of Thais does exactly what this clothing brand does too, but then in different ways and at home, aside of black magic.

        The entire west has buddha statues at home, while it is inappropriate too.

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 7:23 pm

          Sorry, but “The majority of Thais” DO NOT DO “exactly what this clothing brand does too”.

          Have you seen any wearing shirts with these on the back?

          The brand may have no idea what they’re doing, but that doesn’t excuse it any more than it excuses Thais wearing shirts with swastikas or pictures of Adolf and Nazi regalia, or make it any less offensive.

          Ignorance is no excuse, whether it’s for this brand in the US or for Thais over here.

        • Avatar

          Andras Kanos

          Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 11:50 pm

          The Thais’ indignation is 100% justified. At the same time, in pre-Covid street markets in Bangkok and Pattaya (never saw this elsewhere) Nazi- themed T- shirts and even SS helmets are on sale in full view. This is offensive to every decent human being.Talking to vendors, they are clueless as to what Nazi symbols stand for.Authorities do not intervene unless drugs are involved. Open season on lack of common sense.

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Friday, February 19, 2021 at 2:12 am

          Most Thais genuinely have absolutely no idea, Andros K, as there’s very little teaching in history about WW2 here – it’s bordering on taboo.

          It’s all down to the swastika. To Hindus it represents the sun and wealth and to Theravadan (Thai) Buddhists it represents Buddha’s footprints (in Mahayana Buddhism it goes the other way, to the left).

          It pre-dates Nazi use by a couple of thousand years.

          Far from being “offensive” it’s lucky, so logically anything connected with it must be lucky too – the Nazis, the SS, Adolf, etc.

          One of the locals near me drives a little motor-bike pick up (motor bike front, pick up type rear) and he’s not only got two swastikas on each side and across the back but he’s had “NAZI” painted between the swastikas to make it extra lucky – except it’s mis-spelt so it actually says “NAZE” instead.

          Absolutely true – I see him every few days.

          • Avatar

            Bill Fischer

            Friday, February 19, 2021 at 10:41 am

            “Most Thais genuinely have absolutely no idea” utter BS! Thais wearing Nazi uniforms makes Thai news and they know how those adversely affected/insulted by it feel. A lot of Thais simply don’t care. They care if someone insults them, but not the other way around. You don’t care and long as you can kiss Thai backsides on this platform and probably elsewhere. Hint: all Thais don’t defecate rainbows or flatulate sunshine. There are plenty of horrible people in every culture.

      • Avatar

        David Mann

        Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 5:00 pm

        So you do understand the concept of respecting other people’s beliefs. I’ve seen you be rude, sarcastic and obnoxious to many people who believe, for example, that Covid is over egged or that the Thai government are not getting the balance of live’s versus livelihood right. Where is your respect then?

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 7:28 pm

          Respect is earnt, David M, not given to someone who thinks that 200,000 Thais on Phuket should be “re-located” elsewhere so foreign tourists can return without quarantine, with the Thais left there doing quarantine instead if they want to leave Phuket.

          • Avatar


            Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 9:55 pm

            And there it is… Little Johnny respects no-one unless they earn it. What an archaic mindset.

            Respect is also lost as you have found on this site. Virtually no-one respects you or values yours.

      • Avatar


        Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 6:57 pm

        Little Johnny living in lala land again. Evidently zero understanding of capitalism.

      • Avatar

        Bill Fischer

        Friday, February 19, 2021 at 10:31 am

        Issan John – I’m sure you’re OK with Thais wearing Nazi clothing, you know, because you’re so Thai and you pander to everything Thai.

  3. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    Thai hypocrites, they copy everything in the west from watches to western films, yet if a westerner puts a picture of a dead monk on a shirt they scream unfair!
    They think they will be paid off, due to their privileged Buddhist status in Thailand.
    They have big opinion of themselves. This matter is not in Thailand.
    Let them go to a western court and try their luck.
    They will have a nasty shock and large western court costs when they lose.

  4. Avatar

    Jesus Monroe

    Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    I want one…….

  5. Avatar


    Friday, February 19, 2021 at 2:19 am

    I want to start selling 3 finger salute t shirts on every market stall in thailand id be a billionare in a week for sure oh i forgot this is a dictatorship and no freedom of speech country you would prob be beaten and arrested oh well I’d still wear one as they say from small acorns grow big trees

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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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