RE: Is driving a car topless in Phuket illegal?

I was recently stopped at a police checkpoint while driving my car. The policeman got very upset with me for not having a shirt on, and demanded I put one on before allowing me to proceed. Is this actually the law in Thailand?

Joe, Rawai.

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Yes, it is the law in Thailand, as indicated in the Criminal Code BE 2499 (1956).

Section 388 of the code stipulates that any person who performs a disgraceful act in public by undressing himself, exhibiting his undressed person or committing any other act of obscenity, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding 500 baht.

In Thailand, good manners dictate that drivers dress modestly. As Phuket is a tourist hub, we we do make compromises in the interests of intercultural harmony, such as the policeman did in this case by simply issuing a warning, rather than going the whole way and setting about taking more formal legal action.

Naturally, we do consider intention, circumstances and common sense in general. For example, if a boxer is jogging shirtless in the process of warming-up that is not illegal, but if a boxer does not wear pants either, the police will certainly take action.

In the case of baring your chest in your car, what was your intention? That is a question you might want to ask yourself. In any event it, is both inappropriate and illegal to do so in Thailand. Consider yourself lucky you were not hit with a 500-baht fine.

Lt Col Jumroon Plaiduang, Deputy Superintendent, Chalong Police.

Answered on September 2, 2013.
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