Thailand’s Ministry of Culture has voiced concerns about the number of overseas visitors who are being tattooed in Thailand with inappropriate religious imagery. Specifically, the Culture Ministry is not happy with the way some non-Buddhist people are sporting Buddhist tattoos as a fashion statement. Culture Minister, Nipit Intarasombat, has asked provincial governors nationwide to inspect tattoo studios and request their co-operation not to use sacred objects as tattoo patterns. According to the National News Bureau of Thailand, the minister went on to say that he will be seeking a formal legal ban on the practice.
The idea of a ban on Buddha tattoos has created a few headlines, but it’s unlikely whether anything will actually come of the Culture Ministry’s requests. Tattoo parlours are a business and if a tourist requests a specific tattoo, the tattoo artist is unlikely to turn down the money, especially when the price for the tourist is already going to be higher than the standard prices charged to local Thai people.
Just to make a few things clear, and contrary to some reports I’ve seen, Thailand is not planning to turn away tourists with religious tattoos. Nor is it currently illegal for anybody, foreigner or Thai, to get a religious tattoo in Thailand. Indeed, there are a number of overseas visitors who specifically come to Thailand for the mystical Sak Yant tattoo.