Tourist couple held for baring buttocks at Thai temple

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Baring your buttocks at a temple is a low act – and particularly foolish if you post the result to Instagram.

Two American tourists who photographed themselves baring their buttocks in front of Bangkok’s famous Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) are experiencing the disapproval of Thai authorities. The temple is a city landmark on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River that sometimes serves as an emblem of the nation and features on the logo of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The resulting photo, taken from behind, shows the two men standing arm-in-arm facing the temple with their jeans pulled down and their buttocks exposed. It was posted to Instagram but has since been removed.

The men are Joseph and Travis Dasilva, described by the Bangkok Post as a “self-professed gay couple” and by the Los Angeles Times as “minor Instagram celebrities from San Diego”.

They were, according to the LA Times, apparently hoping to gain new material for their “Traveling Butts” feed (now deleted) which involved 14,000 followers viewing the Dasilvas as they bared their buttocks at tourist sites around the world.

Signs advise visitors to Thailand to “dress modestly” on temple grounds – and flashing your buttocks doesn’t fit that description. The two probably thought they had got away with it – until police detained them at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport as they were about to leave the country.

Police Colonel Jarupat Thongkomol said both confessed and had been fined THB 5000 (AUD 200) for public nudity – but more serious charges may await.

The Bangkok Post says they could be charged with posting pornography online (an offence under the computer crime law) and behaving at a religious site in a way that insults a religion.

The charges together can carry fines of over AUD 5000 – and jail from between one and seven years.

US sources said last week the couple were likely to be fined, deported and blacklisted from ever returning to Thailand.

A new complication has arisen, however, with reports at the weekend that police are gathering evidence to show the pair conducted a similar buttock-baring stunt earlier at Wat Trai Mit Witthayaram (Golden Buddha Temple), another well-known Bangkok religious site.

Two offences may attract a harsher penalty than one offence, and the social media posting angle suggests the acts were premeditated rather than spontaneous.

Written by Peter Needham