9 Infamous Times Tourists Got Arrested in Thailand

Arrest | © 3839153/Pixabay
Leslie Finlay

A visit to a foreign country comes with the responsibility to abide by its local laws, and some tourists unfortunately learn this the hard way. From universal no-no’s like feces-throwing to unintentional insults of the royal family, these are 10 of the more infamous instances when tourists landed on the wrong side of the law in The Land of Smiles.

Russian “sex trainer” with purported Trump secrets

Belarusian-born Anastasia Vashukevich, who goes by the Instagram personality Nastya Rybka, was arrested in February with nine other Russians for running “sex training” sessions. The social media starlet claims to have information on links between US President Donald Trump and Russia, which she announced in an Instagram appeal to US journalists in exchange for help with her release from Thai prison. She claims she wound up in jail on the orders of the Russian government due to her supposed knowledge. The self-proclaimed “seductress” boasts ties to Russian influencers like billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko, whom she says served as links between the Kremlin and the 2016 Trump campaign.


The “Butt Selfie” Boys

Thai authorities spare no leeway when it comes to social media. Last November, two men from San Diego were arrested at the airport for having posted a photo to their Instagram account, @traveling_butts, of their exposed rears in front of a famous Buddhist temple. Their account, now inactive, boasted more than 14,000 followers and featured similar bare-backed shots at famous sites from around the world. They were immediately flagged on a watchlist after authorities noticed the photo, and were picked up at the airport as they passed through immigration on their way back to the US. While they got off with a fine, the pair could have faced up to 12 years in prison if the police pursued further charges.

Airline passengers in hot water

Four passengers were detained in 2014 at Don Meung Airport in Bangkok after their flight from China became the scene of physical assault and suicide threats. The whole brouhaha began with a dispute about the charge for hot water for instant noodles, which then escalated to a debate over currency. The passengers proceeded to throw the scalding hot water on a flight attendant, threatened to blow up the plane, and one woman even said she would kill herself once the crew decided to turn the plane around.


YouTube coin-crusher

An American YouTube personality named Nate Bartling was arrested last year for flattening coins on the railroad tracks on his series “My Mate Nate,” broadcast to 4.3 million subscribers. He was charged with railway obstruction, trespassing, and damaging railway property, and following his arrest an online petition circulated arguing to cancel Bartling’s visa and forbid his re-entry. While not charged for the crime, defacing (or stepping on) Thai currency is also a legal no-no.


An “offensive” artist

Thailand takes criticism of any kind towards its royal family very seriously. “Lèse majesté” refers to the criminal act of defaming, insulting, or threatening the king, queen, heir-apparent, regent – or even the king’s dog, Tongdaeng – and Thailand’s code is considered the strictest law of its kind around the world. A Swiss man by the name of Oliver Jufer was sentenced to 10 years in prison after admitting to spray-painting portraits of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit on the king’s birthday in 2007. His sentence was reduced from 75 years due to his confession. The king’s response to this alleged insult of reverence? He pardoned Jufer, saying that he would never allow someone to go to prison for having criticized him, upholding his legacy as Thailand’s most benevolent king.

Viagra-fueled feces thrower

An American tourist, Steve Cho, was arrested in Phuket after stripping naked and throwing feces at passers-by in an apparent Viagra-fueled rage. Once apprehended by security, he eventually regained his composure and accepted responsibility for any damages caused.


Fish food

Here’s the good news: Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) is getting more and more serious about protecting its coral reefs and marine wildlife. Environmental violations, especially in tourist-heavy areas, could cost offenders a 10,000 THB fine, a year in jail, or both. One Russian woman found this out the hard way when she was picked up by authorities for feeding fish with breadcrumbs off Phuket’s east coast last year. She was eventually released on bail, but authorities point to the case as an example to help curb tourist behavior toward the reefs.


Sharing unflattering photos

We’ve all had an unflattering photo of ourselves pop up online, and us commoners just need to un-tag and move on. Not Thai royalty. Scottish journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall shared “insulting” pictures on Facebook, originally accompanying a story from a German newspaper, that purportedly show Thailand’s then-Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, now King since 2016, sporting a crop top and a massive tattoo on his back. Authorities claim they’re doctored – which MacGregor vehemently denies – which itself violates Thai law. The kicker? MacGregor wasn’t even in the country, but police arrested his wife who was visiting Thailand with their three-year-old son, and questioned her for several hours.


Suspicious activity surrounding a tragic fall

British tourist Reece Vella was recently arrested after a prostitute he was having sex with fell to her death from the balcony of a fifth floor apartment. He allegedly fled the scene, as his visa had expired and he was wanted in connection with the theft of a motorcycle, and authorities tracked him down in Pattaya. While prostitution is not legal in Thailand, it’s often tolerated, and Vella was arrested on suspicion of negligence causing others to die, and his prosecution is currently pending.


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