US tourists arrested for lewd photograph at Thai temple

The San Diego couple could face potential jail time for a combination of offences under Thailand's public indecency and computer crime laws.

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Thailand Wat Arun Temple Sacred
The Wat Arun temple is considered one of Thailand's most famous and scared landmarks. Photo: Travel mania, Bigstock

A pair of US tourists is being held in custody by Thailand immigration police for taking a photograph with a sacred monument while their rears were exposed. The photo was taken at the Wat Arun temple and shared on social media platforms.

The two US citizens would be fined and deported according to the Thai immigration authorities. A primarily Buddhist country, Thailand has very strict laws regarding the behaviour around their sacred sites.

The San Diego pair had an Instagram account (which has since been deleted) called the “Travelling Butts” where they posted photos exposing their behinds at famous tourist destinations around the world. The married couple were both arrested at the Don Mueang International airport and charged with public indecency.

While public indecency is taken very seriously in Thailand, it carries potential jail terms when committed at scared places of worship. While being fined 5000 baht (roughly $150 USD) the pair still remains in custody.

Thailand police may still place further charges on the couple based on the country’s computer crimes act since the photo was posted online. A combination of these charges could land the couple with up to 7 years jail time.

The controversial computer crimes act has primarily been used to silence political dissonance on the internet, particularly criticism of Thailand’s monarchy. The act carries sentences of up to 5 years.

San Diego City authorities have carried out correspondence with the couple and are working with local American authorities to resolve the issue. While disappointed with the couple’s actions in representing the United States, American authorities are determined to assist them any way they can.

Thai officials have stated that they want this case to be a reminder to tourists that Thailand’s customs, religion and sacred sites need to be respected. Thai immigration police are pushing for deportation and a blacklisting of the couple from visiting the country again.

Tourists visiting Buddhist monuments are advised to dress appropriately, particularly not to expose their shoulders or legs. It is also recommended not to buy statues or representations of Buddha as souvenirs.

There have been multiple occurrences of western tourists exposing themselves at sacred sites in Buddhist countries. 4 European tourists were fined and received jail time for posing almost nude at Malaysia’s sacred Mount Kinabalu. 2 American women were also fined and deported for taking nude photos at a sacred site in Cambodia.