Americans Arrested In Thailand For Nudity At Buddhist Temple

Reuters/Sukree Sukplang

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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Thai authorities announced the arrest of an American gay couple Wednesday for exposing themselves at Buddhist temples and posting pictures of it online.

The men, identified as Joseph and Travis Dasilva, posted a photo of their bared backsides at the famous Wat Arun temple in Bangkok on an Instagram account they ran called “Traveling Butts,” which prompted a police investigation after the picture was widely shared, according to the Associated Press. Police arrested the men Tuesday night at the Bangkok airport on charges of public indecency.

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The picture sparked an uproar in Thailand, as nudity at a Buddhist temple is considered a sign of severe disrespect in Thai culture. Visitors to Thai Buddhist temples are expected to wear modest clothing, including long pants and shirts that cover the shoulders, and are expected to refrain from any public displays of affection between the opposite sex. The couple also posted a similar picture of themselves at Wat Trai Mit Witthayaram, the Golden Buddha Temple in Bangkok which houses the world’s largest solid gold Buddha.

Deputy police spokesman Krisana Pattanacharoen told AP that the Joseph and Travis were taken to a police station near the temple and forced to pay a fine of roughly $150. The men are now in the custody of Thai immigration authorities. In addition to charges of public indecency, the men may also face charges under Thailand’s computer crimes act since they posted the photo online, according to Bangkok Post. Violation of this act carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, and is often used to silence online speech that is deemed disrespectful of the Thai government. Violation of religious insults laws carries a heftier penalty of up to seven years imprisonment.

Joseph and Travis, a married couple from San Diego, are now seeking help from their city government, according to Bangkok Post.

The Instagram profile to which the men posted their photos features various pictures of them with bared backsides at different locations around the world, sometimes accompanied by other exhibitionist travelers. AP reports that the initial account had over 14,000 followers, but has been deleted since the incident. Another account, however, has appeared, featuring the men’s photos, including edited versions of the pictures they took at the temples.

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