CRIM­I­NAL LAW IN THAI­LAND Part LXXI: Nu­dity at clubs

Bangkok Post - - IN THE LIMELIGHT -

Last time we dis­cussed pub­lic nu­dity, such as tourists on a beach. Un­der Sec­tion 388 of Thai­land’s Crim­i­nal Code, it is a petty crime, pun­ish­able by a fine of 500 baht.

What about nu­dity in en­ter­tain­ment and nightlife? That, too, is il­le­gal. As with beach nu­dity, those go­ing nude in pri­vate clubs and bars are con­sid­ered to be do­ing so in pub­lic, be­cause it can be seen by mem­bers of the pub­lic, how­ever will­ing.

Fur­ther­more, Sec­tion 388 pro­hibits re­veal­ing cloth­ing in the same con­text. There is no hard and fast def­i­ni­tion of ‘‘re­veal­ing cloth­ing’’ and this is de­fined by Thai cus­tom and lo­cal tra­di­tion and the con­text of the act. For ex­am­ple, go­ing top­less in a bar would be con­sid­ered a vi­o­la­tion of Sec­tion 388, whereas breast­feed­ing in a pub­lic mar­ket would not.

Nu­dity in bars is il­le­gal, you say? Ob­vi­ously you, the au­thors of this col­umn, have been spend­ing too much time re­search­ing law at your desks. Why don’t you pop over to Soi Cow­boy, do a lit­tle on-the-ground re­port­ing, and tell us what you see?

In fact, we un­der­stand these laws are spot­tily en­forced. From the point of view of the law-en­force­ment tax dol­lar, ar­rest­ing a bunch of low-in­come go-go dancers and fin­ing them each 500 baht is not a high pri­or­ity.

But the rea­son we raise the is­sue is that ar­rests do take place. For what­ever rea­son, there are pe­ri­odic crack­downs where the po­lice do in fact make ar­rests for nude dancing. We re­called the last of these was a cou­ple of years ago in Fe­bru­ary, 2009.

Our point, how­ever, is that Thai law with re­spect to nu­dity in en­ter­tain­ment is con­sis­tent with that we have de­scribed in con­nec­tion with other vic­tim­less crimes — it’s not the un­der­ly­ing sex is­sue that is pun­ish­able, but the fact that it is done in pub­lic and/or may in­volve mi­nors that has been sin­gled out for po­ten­tial pun­ish­ment.

You’ll re­call, for ex­am­ple, that in the case of pros­ti­tu­tion, pay­ing for sex on an in­di­vid­ual, pri­vate ba­sis in one’s own home or ho­tel room is not, as a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, a se­ri­ous legal threat for ei­ther the pros­ti­tute or the cus­tomer. When the sex for hire is ad­ver­tised, made avail­able in places to which the pub­lic has ac­cess, is or­gan­ised as a busi­ness by a third party or in­volves mi­nors, Thai­land’s crim­i­nal laws may be in­voked. And they are se­ri­ous.

Of course, pros­ti­tu­tion is pun­ished un­der dif­fer­ent pro­vi­sions of the Thai crim­i­nal laws, but we use this point to em­pha­sise the point we made above — that sex crimes are most likely to be pun­ished in Thai­land when they are com­mit­ted in pub­lic.

So what hap­pens if you’re in­no­cently sitting in a night­club en­joy­ing a lit­tle nude en­ter­tain­ment and the po­lice show up and start ar­rest­ing peo­ple? Can you be ar­rested? Gen­er­ally, un­der Sec­tion 106 of the code, you can­not, be­cause vi­o­la­tions of Sec­tion 388 are petty crimes and sup­port­ers of petty crimes are not pun­ish­able.

On the other hand, for ex­am­ple, if you op­er­ate the night­club and pay the em­ploy­ees to get naked, you will, un­der Sec­tion 86 of the code, be guilty of an of­fence, too.

Like­wise, as dis­cussed in ear­lier col­umns, if the po­lice take the po­si­tion that one or more of the nude dancers is a pros­ti­tute, or that there are pros­ti­tutes on the premises, all of the penal­ties in con­nec­tion with pros­ti­tu­tion would be ap­pli­ca­ble. For ex­am­ple, Sec­tion 6 of the Preven­tion and Su­pres­sion of Pros­ti­tu­tion Act BE 2539, dis­cussed at length in ear­lier weeks, would sub­ject you to crim­i­nal penal­ties. Sec­tion 6 pro­vides that any­one min­gling in a place of pros­ti­tu­tion for the pur­pose of pros­ti­tu­tion of oth­ers or them­selves shall be im­pris­oned for up to a month and a fine.

James Finch of Chavalit Finch and Part­ners ([email protected]­itfinch­law.com) and Nilobon Tang­pr­a­sit of Siam City Law Of­fices Ltd ([email protected]­c­ity­law.com). Re­searchers: Su­tatip Rak­tiprakorn and Si­tra Horsin­chai.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.chaval­itfinch­law.com. Ques­tions? Con­tact us at the

email ad­dresses above.

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