Connect with us


Crackdown ordered on religious tattoos in Phuket



PHUKET: The Culture Ministry has attacked the growing trend for tourists in Phuket and other parts of Thailand to have religious images tattooed on their bodies.

It has ordered provincial governors across the country, including Phuket, to crack down on such tattoos, igniting a debate on the human rights implications of forbidding the practice.

Culture Minister Niphit Intharasombat told reporters on Monday that Phuket’s Culture Office had uncovered an “alarming trend”: tourists have images such as those of the Buddha, Ganesh and Jesus Christ tattooed on their arms, legs and ankles.

It is culturally inappropriate and erodes respect for religion, Mr Niphit said.

But the ministry is likely to face an uphill battle to end the practice. The service is highly popular and tattooists can charge extra for such work, with some jobs costing upwards of 20,000 baht.

Mr Niphit downplayed the likelihood that the tattoos could be a genuine expression of spiritual belief.

The tattoos were just part of a fashion trend among tourists, who most likely did not believe in the religion and were ignorant of the true significance of the image.

As a result, Mr Niphit said the ministry’s Subcommittee on Safe and Creative Media had decided to order the governors of all Thai provinces to ban foreigners from getting tattoos of religious images of any faith.

Governors would be asked to convene meetings of those involved in the industry to ask for their cooperation, he said.

“At the meeting, we noted that these tattoos were all over the country, in particular in tourist destinations such as Khao San Road, Tawanna and Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket,” he said.

“We have to help prevent images that are respected in various religions from being tattooed onto the body.”

People with visible religious tattoos who engaged in “bad behavior” such as “sitting drinking alcohol and arguing” would damage the faiths through association, Mr Niphit said.

Acknowledging that Thai law did not prevent people from getting such tattoos, he said the ministry needed to coordinate with relevant agencies to draft measures to prevent the practice.

He would also propose to the National Culture Committee that a law be drafted that forbade the use of religious symbols for commercial purposes. The law, if passed, would affect both those who offered and used such services.

Ladda Tangsupachai, director of the ministry’s Cultural Surveillance Center, warned that if “people who showed their bodies for a living”, such as “prostitutes” and “go-go dancers”, had such tattoos, it would erode respect for religion.

But Human Rights Commissioner Wasan Panich pointed out that while Thai law prevented people from violating the Thai flag and other national icons, there were no such laws concerning religious symbols.

Any law banning the use of such images for commercial purposes must not violate people’s rights, because the term “commercial” has a broad meaning, he said.

“If people have Buddha images tattooed on their body, on their arms or chest, for example, you can’t forbid that because it’s not insulting,” he said.

“Anyone can get these tattoos because it’s their right to do that to their own body.”

But, he added, if people had such images tattooed to their ankles or “inappropriate organs”, it could be seen as insulting to religion.

“For example, if a foreigner got a tattoo of the Buddha on his ankle, Buddhists would see that as insulting to their religion,” he said.

“But if a foreigner gets a cross on his ankle, Buddhists probably wouldn’t think anything of it, but other foreigners might not be satisfied.”

“Because of that, the basic principle is that you must respect the rights of the individual, but you must not violate the rights or beliefs of others,” he added.

— Kom Chad Luek


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Road deaths52 mins ago

‘Drowsy’ driver crashes van, killing 3 Laotian workers

Thailand1 hour ago

Is the dream over? China walks back Belt & Road ambitions

Politics2 hours ago

Prasert levels 6-billion corruption accusations at Prayut

Sponsored4 hours ago

Segafredo Zanetti Coffee teamed up with Bangkok Airways and hosted “Bangkok Airways Surf Festival 2022”

Thailand2 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Baht plunges to 38 against USD for the first time in 16 years

Phuket3 hours ago

Phuket dwellers honour 10th Lunar Month

Thailand3 hours ago

Thai govt owes 100 million baht to hospitality industry

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand4 hours ago

BMA reveals Bangkok druggies buy yaba online 

Phuket4 hours ago

Delivery driver & customer brawl over payment in Phuket

Transport4 hours ago

Thai Airways flying high at Skytrax Awards

Thailand4 hours ago

Soi Dog Foundation steps up fight against rabies and dog meat trade in Vietnam

Visa5 hours ago

Thailand to extend Smart Visa scheme to draw talent

Cannabis5 hours ago

Can I take cannabis on domestic flights in Thailand?

Thailand5 hours ago

Thailand pays 3.8 billion baht for first train hub in hospital

Transport6 hours ago

Bomb scare on flight from San Francisco to Singapore

South6 hours ago

English teacher’s body found in South Thailand

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism2 years ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11