Bad Boys Get Inked

STEPHEN SHAVER/AFP

A young monk has a tattoo of prayers added to his back at Wat Bang Phra

In Thailand, Buddhist temples often adopt a certain constituency—teachers, sailors, doctors—and become its spiritual sanctuary. Wat Bang Phra, an hour's drive west of Bangkok, has taken in nakleng—hit men, gang members, ex-cons, professional hoods, the kind of people you wouldn't normally go to temple with.

And what good is a spiritual home that doesn't give you something to help in your worldly toils and travails? Each February, thousands of nakleng from all parts of the kingdom descend on Wat Bang Phra for exactly that: a little bit of magic to make them even tougher. Many Thais believe...

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