BANGKOK -- Thailand ordered a crackdown on the "alarming trend" of foreign tourists having religious images tattooed on their bodies while in the country, the Phuket Gazette reported Wednesday.

Culture minister Niphit Intharasombat said that visible tattoos depicting Buddha, Ganesh and Jesus Christ on foreign tourists were "culturally inappropriate" and eroded respect for religion.

Niphit said Monday that the culture ministry's subcommittee on safe and creative media ordered provincial governors to ban the trend, as it was unlikely that the tattoos were a genuine expression of the tourists' spiritual beliefs. The culture minister added that if the tattooed person was "badly behaved," it would damage the religions "through association."

"We noted that these tattoos were all over the country -- in particular, in tourist destinations such as Khao San Road, Tawanna and Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket," he said. "We have to help prevent images that are respected in various religions from being tattooed onto the body."

Although Thai law does not ban tattoos of sacred images, Niphit said he was pushing for the crackdown to become legally binding.