Sri Lanka customs seize 'offensive' Buddha aprons

Colombo (AFP) - Sri Lanka's customs authorities on Thursday impounded a consignment of aprons from India featuring images of the Buddha, saying the novelty garments were "offensive to Buddhists".

Spokesman Dharmasena Kahandawa said it was an offence under international customs law to trade in merchandise that could cause offence -- even though the aprons were only transiting Sri Lanka en route to Slovenia.

"We consider having an image of the Buddha on a kitchen apron to be offensive to Buddhists," Kahandawa told AFP. "That is why we detained this consignment."

Nearly 70 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people are Buddhists and authorities are highly sensitive to perceived insults to the faith.

Two years ago, Sri Lanka deported a British nurse because she had a Buddha tattooed on her upper right arm.

And in 2004, Sri Lanka got international lingerie manufacturer, Victoria's Secret, to withdraw Buddha-print bras and bikinis which it deemed offensive.

Kahandawa said authorities were now unsure what to do with the impounded cargo, which could not be destroyed for religious reasons.

"We are in a bit of a quandary," he told AFP.

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