A controversial photograph of a popular Burmese actor and his friends posing in saffron robes on the day of their ordination at a Buddhist monastery was published on a popular Burmese Website on Tuesday causing outrage and a severe backlash.

The photograph, which was reportedly taken in 2007 sometime before the monk-led Saffron Revolution, shows actor Min Maw Kun and 11 friends posing in an unnamed Burmese monastery. Well-known photographer Wanna Khwar Nee is among the youths.
Although their heads are shaved and they are wearing religious robes, most of the young men are displaying fashionable tattoos with motifs such as dragons and scorpions, as well as Old School and tribal tattoo patterns. Some of the men smile cheekily at the camera while others hug or pose provocatively.

After appearing on the niknayman-niknayman Web site, the photo was reproduced on several other Burmese blogs and Web sites. Although several bloggers responded to the photo as “funny,” others were offended.

On the Burmese version of Wednesday’s The Irrawaddy, many respondents felt the photo was in bad taste.

Ashin Issariya, one of the leaders of the All Burma Monks Alliance, said, “The Buddha never banned tattoos, so persons with tattoos can still be ordained as monks. However, they should cover up, so the tattoo cannot be seen.”

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, one of the young men who appears in the photograph, but who wished to remain anonymous, said, “The photo was taken before the 2007 uprising. It was only meant as a bit of fun. We have no idea how the photo got online.”

He added that, contrary to claims on the niknayman-niknayman Web site, the tattoos the young men displayed are real, and not fakes.

A revered monk who lives in the US, Ashin Candobhasacara, sharply criticized the 12 men on an online blog. “Why would and his friends insult our religion like that” he questioned, adding that the men “should apologize for their decadent behavior.”



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