The government of Thailand has issued a warning that the Ministry of Culture would begin prosecuting women who post “underboob selfies” on the Internet: photos exposing the bottom half of their breasts. The photos, usually taken so that the woman cannot be identified, have become a growing trend internationally.
Reuters reports that the warning was issued this week that the photos could violate the nation’s Internet obscenity laws, and women convicted of posting the photos online could receive sentences of up to five years in prison. The relevant law, the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, prohibits anyone in Thailand from posting materials online that cause “damage to the country’s security or causes public panic” or “any obscene computer data which is accessible to the public.”
The website Thai Visa cites Yupha Thaweewattanakijborworn, the director of the Ministry of Culture’s Culture Watch Office, as issuing the public warning that her office would begin investigating “underboob selfie” cases. Thaweewattanakijborworn also told media outlets that they will be held responsible if they broadcast information that could potentially give the trend more publicity.
The report concludes that Thaweewattanakijborworn added: “the Culture Ministry does not support Thai women to be scantily clad in public places, and it would become a serious problem for the society if many Thai girls follow the example.”
Reuters notes that a major problem in prosecuting women who post these photos is that they are deliberately taken to mask the woman’s identity. “When people take these ‘underboob selfies’ no one can see their faces,” ministry spokesman Anandha Chouchoti told Reuters. “So it’s like, we don’t know who these belong to, and it encourages others to do the same.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the trend appears to have begun in the West as “a popular alternative to the traditional ‘lying on the beach’ bikini shot.” Among those helping popularize the trend is the artist Rihanna, who has taken such pictures to display a tattoo under her breasts of the Egyptian goddess Isis.
Thailand’s government has attempted to crackdown on social activity it deems immoral, particularly in recent months as the military junta that ousted former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has established itself. Opponents of the new government were jailed in late 2014 for adopting the three-fingered protest hand gesture from the film The Hunger Games to oppose the government.
Nonetheless, Thailand continues to produce unorthodox social news stories. Earlier this month, it became the first nation to host a three-person gay marriage.