Two American men that World Of Wonder writer Trey Speegle reported on yesterday, now face serious jail time after baring their butts at a temple in Bangkok, Thailand.
It’s a a scene reminiscent of the Midnight Express, the 1978 film about a young American guy held in a Turkish prison for trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey. Thailand can be a beautiful destination for sightseeing, but not for mooning the camera at a place of worship. Over 2000 American tourists are now being held in Thai prisons. So, whatever you do, read up on Thai laws. Some are especially unique, like the nudity laws. Overcrowded, dirty, and without even the bare necessities, Thai jails are no vacation. Then there was the man from Switzerland who defaced a picture of the king with spray paint. He got 10 years in jail.
The Dasilvas join the ranks of other Western tourists who have been detained for inappropriate behavior at sacred Southeast Asian sites in recent years. In 2015, Cambodian authorities arrested, fined and deported two American women for taking partially nude photos at Angkor Wat, the world-famous temple complex. In June 2015, Malaysian authorities detained four Canadian, Dutch and German tourists for posing naked atop the country’s sacred Mt. Kinabalu. They were sentenced to three days in jail and fined.
The two men, who are married, are San Diego residents Joseph Dasilva and Travis Dasilva, both in their late 30s. They had more than 14,000 Instagram followers on their account titled Traveling Butts. The couple’s account, which has since been deleted, featured pictures of the pair with their pants pulled down at famous sites around the world.
The Dasilvas were arrested by Thai Immigration officers at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangock and charged with public indecency. A spokesman for immigration police said that the two men admitted to posing for photos at Wat Arun, a Buddhist holy site in Bangkok, with their pants pulled down.
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist nation, run by a military government that took power in a coup in 2014. Authorities are highly sensitive about religious matters. Strict laws prohibit even open discussion of the country’s monarchy. In 2015, a man was given a 37-year jail term for posting a joke about the king’s dog online.
The men reportedly each paid a fine of 5,000 baht (about $150 USD) but are still in custody. A Thai police official explained why the act was so offensive:
“Respect for places of cultural, historical and religious importance is important because it is simply good manners.”
The Thai government said the couple could face jail time:
“The charge would not be a normal public indecency charge. Instead, they would be charged with committing indecency in a place of worship, which carries a long jail term. This is a reminder that everyone should have respect for Thai religion and culture.”
The deputy chief of the Bangkok Yai district police station told the press that Thai officials are considering additional charges against the Dasilvas under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act because they posted the photograph online. Thailand introduced the computer crimes law in late last year, sparking an outcry from civil society groups. Human Rights Watch said: “The law gives overly broad powers to the government to restrict free speech, enforce surveillance and censorship, and retaliate against activists.”
The charges could lead to jail time of up to seven years. The couple will likely be deported, Choengron Rimpadee, deputy spokesman for the Thai immigration police, told the BBC:
“Once they are through with the charges, the Thai immigration police will revoke their visas and push for deportation. They will also be blacklisted from coming back to Thailand.”
San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez said he has been in contact with the Dasilvas, and is reaching out to American authorities what assistance can be offered to the two gay American citizens.