As the old saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. And in Thailand, no one would expose their butt cheeks before a Buddhist temple.
Two American tourists learned this the hard way after they were arrested and fined for public indecency for posing for a “butt selfie” in front of a famous religious site, police said on Wednesday.
The two, who police identified as Joseph Dasilva, 38, and Travis Dasilva, 36, were arrested late on Tuesday at an airport in the capital, Bangkok.
They were each fined 5,000 baht (US$154) for baring their buttocks for a picture taken last week at Bangkok’s Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn.
“The two American citizens have admitted taking the picture,” district police chief Jaruphat Thongkomol told Reuters.
While Thailand has a reputation for racy nightlife, the predominantly Buddhist country is deeply conservative and revealing clothing is frowned upon while public nudity is considered offensive.
The two men had an Instagram account called @traveling_butts which showcased similar selfies taken at tourists sites around the world. The account had more than 14,000 followers but on Wednesday it had been deleted.
Jaruphat said the two would also be fined for a similar picture taken at another temple in Bangkok.
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They were being held at an immigration detention center while police considered a possible violation of Thailand’s Computer Crime Act, as the photograph was uploaded online, Jaruphat said.
According to News.com.au, the images of the two were shared by a local Bangkok woman in a popular Facebook group, Everything Bangkok, where netizens slammed the couples as being “culturally insensitive” and “profoundly disrespectful”.
“These two person (sic) has had acted lewdly in the grounds of the temple and the ground of the Thais. Thais respects the land of the temple too (sic). Taking lewd pictures in a temple or on the grounds of temple or anywhere in Thailand is punishable by law,” a Bangkok resident said.
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An Australian man who lives in Bangkok said: “I think they’re asking people to have a sense of humour through irreverence but it’s not really appropriate given the nature of the country, religion and populace. More just inflammatory and silly.”
Travel safety expert Phil Sylvester from Travel Insurance Direct previously told the Australian news site that such acts could land tourists in serious trouble.
“We’re all for free expression in the privacy of your own home, or even in the great outdoors when no one else is around, but be aware that many of the cheeky exploits featured in the account might get you into trouble,” he said.
“Although it is great to feel free and liberated when travelling the world, if you get detained or arrested by police for your bottom selfie and miss a flight or a prepaid tour, your insurance will unlikely pay your claim, simply and understandably because the event is a result of illegal behaviour.”
***Additional reporting by Reuters