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?
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.