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San Diego couple arrested in Bangkok after exposing buttocks at temple

At Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, in Bangkok, Thailand, pieces of porcelain adorn the temples and the mythological creatures lining the facade. (Susan Hegger/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Joseph and Travis Dasilva have exposed their bums in photographs at some of the world’s most well-known landmarks for their popular social media accounts.

This week, a racy picture at an iconic Buddhist temple landed them behind bars in Bangkok, where they face charges that could keep them in jail for years.

Immigration authorities in Thailand arrested the San Diego couple at Don Mueang International Airport on Tuesday while they “were trying to depart the country,” the Bangkok Post reported.

They were initially accused of indecent exposure, a criminal offense that carries a fine of up to 5,000 baht, or about $150, according to the English-language newspaper. Police officials said Wednesday, however, that the 38-year-old men will likely face two additional charges that could result in jail time.

The allegations have inflamed the Thai and Buddhist communities in San Diego and beyond.

“It’s disrespectful on so many levels — to the religion, the culture, the people and the country,” said Jennifer Ing-aram, vice president of the Thai Association of Southern California. “The Thai community is very unhappy that these two fellows chose to expose themselves for fun.”

Leaders in the gay community have also expressed dismay at the couple’s actions. San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a longtime LGBTQ activist, is close friends with Travis Dasilva. He said while he is concerned for the couple, their behavior was inexcusable.

“It’s deeply embarrassing for any American, because it gives credence to that ugly stereotype of Americans who think they can do whatever they want,” Murray-Ramirez said. “I find their actions to be indefensible and unacceptable.”

The Dasilvas regularly pose for photographs with their shorts or pants pulled down, their bare bottoms exposed, at places the world over. The pictures were shared on the couple’s Instagram account, called traveling—butts, which had more than 14,000 followers before it was taken down Tuesday.

“That’s how they express themselves artistically,” said M.G. Perez, a San Diego friend of the married couple.

Their most recent pictures were apparently taken at Wat Arun, also called Temple of Dawn, in Bangkok. The temple, with a main spire that’s more than 200 feet tall, is among Thailand’s most famous landmarks.

In addition to indecent exposure, the pair will likely face two additional charges: posting pornographic pictures online, a violation of the country’s Computer Crime Act, and insulting or defaming a religion, a criminal offense.

The charge related to pornographic pictures can result in a jail term of up to five years and/or a fine of up to 100,000 baht, which is about $3,070. The charge of insulting a religion carries a possible jail term of one to seven years and/or a fine of 20,000 to 40,000 baht, or about $615 to $1,230, according to the Bangkok Post.

Police officials told the paper that investigators have also uncovered evidence the couple may have taken similar photographs at Bangkok’s Wat Traimit temple, famous for the enormous golden Buddha it houses.

Perez said he and other friends are concerned about the couple’s safety.

He said his worries began Tuesday morning after Travis Dasilva made a vague inquiry on Facebook: “Anybody know any diplomats in Bangkok. Or know any lawyers in Bangkok … ”

“Or anyone from the U.S. who can help,” Dasilva later commented on his post.

He then added: “Call a senator or something. I dunno (how much) longer I’ll have my phone.”

Perez said Tuesday night that he had texted and messaged the couple via Facebook and was anxiously waiting for a reply.

Both Perez and Murray-Ramirez said the men have a long track record of community involvement and social justice action in the LGBTQ community.

“Joseph and Travis are such incredible people, with hearts of gold,” Perez said.

He added later, “We are all humans, and we all make choices, and there are consequences to our choices. Travis and Joseph are men of integrity who will face those consequences.

“It is not about judgment. It is about their safety and figuring out how to get them back home,” he said.

Friends of the couple have reached out to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California to ask for help.


© 2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.