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Thailand: Outrage Over Topless Teen Dancing

The buzz in Thailand in the past week (before the renewed border fighting with Cambodian troops) was the scandal caused by the topless teen dancers during the Songkran Water Festival (Thai New Year).

The photos and videos of the three girls dancing bare breasted in Silom, Bangkok immediately went viral and generated intense debates on Thai culture and morality. The girls were slapped with a 500 Baht ($17) fine while the person who uploaded the video received a 100,000 Baht ($3,320) fine and a possible prison term for up to five years in violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

The Thai Ministry of Culture condemned the girls for “destroying the image” of Thailand and because of this issue, the Ministry will be issuing handbooks to educate the country's youth about Thai culture:

The Ministry of Culture is preparing to issue handbooks campaigning for greater awareness of youngsters on the genuine value of Songkran Festival after inappropriate behaviors were spotted during the Thai New Year celebration.

But netizens reminded the Ministry that topless women were featured on its website and was only mysteriously removed immediately after the Songkran topless dancing incident.

Screenshot images of the Ministry website from Richard Barrow

Catherine urges the Ministry to restore the removed image of the Nang Songkran (Thai Goddesses of Songkran) painting on its website.

Anyway, I just wanted to have my very brief say about keeping Thai culture real. And to please ask Thailand to put the bare breasted ladies of Songkran back on the Thai Ministry of Culture’s website where they belong. That’s all.

Sompop Budtarad was the artist who depicted the legend of Nang Songkran.

Thai Connoisseur observes that the three teenagers were merely “embracing the more traditional, and somewhat forgotten aspects of Songkran”:

…three young Thai ladies embracing the more traditional, and somewhat forgotten aspects of Songkran, by dancing in much the same way as their great grandmothers would have done back in the days of Siam. In other words, bare breasted! Who can blame them? I think it is a good thing for the young people to revive forgotten traditions of one's ancestors.

Saksith interviews Kaewmala who described the Ministry of Culture as “Thai Cultural Talibans”:

Many Thais and non-Thais do know that not a century ago, Thai women were still walking around bare breasted. So where did this make-believe puritan “model” of Thai Culture come from? It sure didn’t come from the old, ordinary Thai ways

Harrison George, writing for Prachatai, comments on the hypocrisy of the authorities:

Where the young women went wrong was doing it for free. Theirs was an economic sin, not a moral one. If they had done the same thing in a bar a few hundred yards away (and lied about their age, which sort of comes with the turf), they would never have been bothered by the law. And got paid for it.

Isaan Style points to other activities and behavior which bring more damage to the image of Thailand:

This image hurts the image of Thailand! Please! What about the hundreds of bars that house prostitutes, the live sex shows, blow job bars, massages with happy endings, karaoke bars that have topless girl with rooms out the back, sweat shops and on and on we could go.

What about the murderous protests, the continuing deaths of innocent people in the south, the ridiculous road tolls, the blatant corruption and so on. Don’t these hurt Thailand?

Foreigners will think that Songkran is just a water fight! I would confidently say that 90% of them already do, that come here for it.

This all to me is bewildering as the culture ministry and other authorities cry foul, but they tolerate all the real seedy side of Thailand, the sale of paedophilia out in the open and by touts, the pretence that Thailand does not have prostitutes but only girls who agree to go with men and if they have sex and the man wants to pay them, this is fine.

The girls were apprehended by the police and presented to the media. Maja Cubarrubia appeals for the protection of privacy and rights of the teenagers:

Instead of attempting to disguise the girls’ identities, could the police have afforded not to hold the press conference to avoid the risk of violating the girls rights to privacy and dignity – the rights stated in an international convention on child rights that Thailand has ratified and the country’s own child protection law.

The Lost Boy raises more questions about the incident:

The whole incident is, of course, farcical, but what troubles me is that people appear to be getting worked up about the wrong things. Nobody is asking why three teen girls were there in the first place, nor the dangers they may have been in. Thailand's Twitter-based observers did not appear bothered about three near-naked school girls dancing in front of a huge crowd of drunk men. The girls could quite easily have found themselves in a situation where they were prone to sexual assault, surely.

Political Prisoners in Thailand criticizes the “lack of morality among the elite”:

A few young women getting their tops off gets the elite upset. Killing red shirts around Songkhran (in 2009 and 2010) seems to bring cheers and joy for the elite. Where was the outrage from the elite when the army killed protesters? Perhaps this event will serve as a reminder of the lack of morality amongst the royalist elite….

Here are some twitter reactions in Bangkok:

@freakingcat: While Thailand is outraged about 3 girls dancing topless on Songkran, Child Porn DVD continued to be sold on Sukhumvit [Road] & nobody gives a damn

@qandrew: Not surprised to hear 3 Songkran dancers linked to illegal pub/casino owned by politician & police where thy wur lured into dancing topless.

@weirdwern: “Thais need someone to blame. It's easier than fixing problems in the country.” – Prof.Chalidaporn,regarding to three topless girls incident

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