T: As NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports, the problem involves certain tattoos below the belt.
ANTHONY KUHN: Pongsuk Tammaget runs the Max Body Tattoo Parlor in an alley off the main road.
PONGSUK TAMMAGET: (Through Translator) Some tattoo parlors only care about money. They have no ethics, and they'll give foreigners whatever tattoos they want. We're Buddhists, and when we see a Buddhist image tattooed below the waist, it offends our sensibilities.
KUHN: Nearby, a man from Melbourne, Australia, who goes by his Buddhist name Tao Jaiphet, extends an arm adorned with sacred tattoos known as Sak Yant. He says he'd never get these etched below the belt. His window on Thai culture, he explains, is the art of Thai boxing.
TAO JAIPHET: I was a boxer here. I was living here in the late '90s, and it's quite common for Muay Thai fighters to get Sak Yant. I think they were kind of like the first, before Angelina Jolie got on the bandwagon. A lot of the boxers would get Sak Yant to protect them while they're fighting.
KUHN: Did it help your boxing any?
JAIPHET: Actually, I retired soon after, so not really.
NOO KAMPAI: (Foreign language spoken)
KUHN: Master Noo illustrated the back of actress Angelina Jolie with sacred scripts and a crouching tiger. He agrees with the government's injunctions against improper tattooing. He counsels his more casual customers to think before they ink.
KAMPAI: (Through Translator) My advice for those who want to get tattoos is to think it over repeatedly. First, will it affect your job options? Second, do you want this thing indelibly inked on your skin? And lastly, are you getting it for good luck or just to decorate your body?
KUHN: A similar debate over public morals erupted in April.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)
KUHN: Professor Pavin Chachavalpongpun of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore says that the minister was apparently not concerned with Bangkok's red-light districts.
PAVIN CHACHAVALPONGPUN: I just wish that, you know, we just be honest about what happening in Thailand. And as a Thai, I mean, I find it frustrating because we know that in reality, what I see every day in Thailand is just not what the state want foreigners to see.
KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News.
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