Body art 'can boost Thai soft power'

Body art 'can boost Thai soft power'

Narutchai Bunnag, MP candidate for TST, leverages his love for tattoos

Narutchai Bunnag
Narutchai Bunnag

Narutchai Bunnag, MP candidate for Bangkok under the Thai Sang Thai (TST) Party, wants to promote Thailand's soft power through tattoo art.

The 32-year-old grandson of the late former House speaker and deputy Democrat Leader Marut Bunnag seeks to follow in his grandfather's footsteps in politics by promoting what he loves: Thai body art.

He is often seen in promotional posters donning his party shirt with his sleeve tattoos visible, making him a rare sight in Thai politics.

At first, some people were reluctant to speak to him as he looked different from other candidates. However, he is determined to change people's negative perception of tattoos, which are often associated with criminal elements.

"I have a love for art. I love tattoos. It is a kind of art that I like," Mr Narutchai said.

"Before I entered politics, I did not mind what people said about [tattoos] because it did not affect my work, but when I want to be a people's representative, I listen to people's concerns. Some of them asked why I had many tattoos.

"During the past two years, when I decided to walk this path, I have never come across obstacles," he added. "People accept me as I am, and this is the most important [thing]."

Although some people may associate tattoos with prison inmates or drug users, Mr Narutchai said he wants to take this opportunity to promote tattoos as art in Thailand's soft power push.

"I want people to realise that they should not judge a book by its cover," he said. "Many tattooed people work hard for their families and never cause trouble in society."

If elected, he would promote tattoo businesses with many styles, such as traditional, tribal and modern, and help change the perception of tattooed individuals.

He said Thai tattoos in particular are popular among foreigners. Many well-known Thai tattoo artists are sought after and customers are willing to wait for over a year for their turn, he said.

If such a business is properly promoted and supported, Thailand could generate billions of baht in soft power revenue, he said.

"It seems like there are not many politicians with much interest in the tattoo business," he said.

"It might be because they don't have tattoos, but I do. I know that it can be promoted to bring income to the country."

Although his grandfather was a member of the Democrat Party, Mr Narutchai is running under the TST banner, led by Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan.

"I saw my late grandfather help many people throughout his life," Mr Narutchai said. "I followed in his footsteps in studying law.

"Being a lawyer can help people but not as much as my grandfather did," he added.

"My grandfather inspired me to do what I wanted to do. I should be a part of the mechanism that drives development in the country. That made me interested in being a representative of the people and being in politics."

Mr Narutchai graduated from Assumption University with a Bachelor of Laws. He continued his law studies at the University of Southern California and Cornell University to obtain his Master of Laws degree.

He was a lawyer before joining TST. He said one day he met party leader Khunying Sudarat and learned of her political intentions, which he supported.

"As Khunying Sudarat may have seen my determination to be someone like my grandfather, she gave me a chance and nominated me as an MP candidate for Bangkok constituencies in Yannawa and Bang Kho Laem, an area I am familiar with."

He said since becoming a candidate, he has visited people in various communities every day.

The TST's popularity has improved since people started to realise the party's determination to improve their living conditions, he said, adding that Khunying Sudarat attracts popular support because of her work in politics over three decades.

"I myself also work hard. I meet people every day, almost non-stop, to get others to know me better," Mr Narutchai said.

"If I am not too sick, I will not stop."

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