Once in a while, it’s ok to break the rules, but maybe not a good idea when you’re in a foreign country. This is a Thailand travel guide for rule-breakers, you better watch out when you’re in Thailand.
This is a Thailand travel guide to help you understand some of the strange Thai laws to keep you away from getting fined, blacklisted or even locked up in prison for something you thought was ok to do.
Then you have some of the Thai laws that are not strange and make a lot of sense, but you might never encounter them in your home country. And it’s good to know what to expect when you’re here.
If you’re planning to travel to the country, here are some Thai laws you need to beware of.
You will need a permit to fly a drone because these modern drones have a camera. That includes personal or commercial purposes. You need to register your drone, and if you get caught without your drone register, you could get a fine of up to 100,000 baht ($3,300 USD) and/or a prison term of up to 5 years.
All drones must be registered that are brought inside the country and overseas.
If you’re buying your drone in Thailand, you usually pay the store, and they can have it register with all the paperwork done for you, or if you feel adventurous, you may do it yourself. The cost is between 4,000 to 5,000 baht (about $160 USD).
Drones that don’t have a camera or weigh under 2kg are not required to be registered.
Other than the National Lottery supported by the government and horse races. All gambling activities are prohibited in the kingdom.
This gambling ban date back to 1935 with the Gambling Act. Then you have the Playing Cards Act, which prohibits people from owning more than 120 playing cards without government approval. However, if you follow Thai news, there are gambling dens and online casinos that people use to gamble. Which are illegal, and people can get fined or jail if caught.
That’s why you don’t see any casinos in the country.
Posting on Social Media With Alcohol and Cigarette
Many people are unaware of this, even Thai base YouTubers who have been living here for many years. Many of them currently have videos and selfie photos of themselves drinking beer on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram.
Believe it or not, drinking beer or alcohol in Thailand and posting it on social media is a potential crime. You aren’t allowed to hold a bottle of well-known liquor in your favourite bar or show off a pint of beer with your friends or family on your holiday.
I think this is a weird law because what happens if someone owns a bar, nightclub or restaurant and wants to promote their business on Facebook or Instagram? Also, Thais sell beer, wine or whisky in grocery stores and convenience stores but they don’t want people to post photos or videos of them holding or drinking it on social media. Doing such, you could face legal action resulting in a maximum fine of up to 1 year in prison or a fine not exceeding 500,000 baht or about $15,000 USD.
But don’t worry
I wouldn’t worry about this as the law is hardly enforced; I never heard any tourists or expats been charged for this. Especially if you’re a tourist on holiday and posting it to your friends or family, having dinner at a social event or having fun. I don’t think that’s the intention of this Thai law. I think this law is trying to discourage Thai companies or Thai celebrities with huge influence and followers from profiting by promoting alcohol to minors.
If you have a significant online presence and living here, it is one of those things that could be a protentional crime in the kingdom. So keep that in mind. Again, tourists and regular people who are not attempting to advertise a specific alcohol brand – being fine or arrested for violated the Thai Alcohol Control Act are rare.
Then you have the Tobacco Products Control Act, which I think is similar to the Alcohol Control Act. The Thai authorities don’t want young people looking at their favourite celebrities smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol on social media.
What about weed?
I have another article that talks a bit about it. Thailand recently legalized medical cannabis, but the flowers or the buds are still illegal at the time of this writing. Here is a link to that article here.
Opening Car Door Negligence
This almost happened to me last week when I was on my scooter. Most people come here for a holiday and probably don’t have their private vehicles. But if you have your own vehicle or using a taxi and getting out of the car. Make sure to look behind you before opening your door. If you open the door and a motorbike is behind and crashes into your door. That will be all on you.
There are many road accidents where someone opens their car door and the oncoming motorbike crash into it—the motorbike driver land on the road where another vehicle mows them over. That’s the worst-case scenario.
Suppose you get out of the taxi or your private car and cause an accident because you didn’t check. You are responsible for any medical bills and motorbike repair expenses. If you’re in a taxi, you are also responsible for any damage to that vehicle too.
If you’re on the scooter or motorbike, I tend to keep maybe a meter away from any park cars if I can and avoid going too fast.
Defaming Thai Companies and Thai Nationals
I’ll give you one example, just recently the past year. This story went international about an American being sue by a hotel in Koh Chang for leaving negative reviews online.
The hotel filed a defamation suit against the American who was working as a teacher in Bangkok. The way they track him down wasn’t hard; the American posted his negative reviews with his real name.
He was arrested before being released on bail, and this was before he had to go to court. He faced a prison sentence of up to 2 years and a fine of up to 200,000 baht if found guilty.
Eventually, everything was settled out of court. I don’t think the American had to pay any fine, but he promised not to write negative reviews about the hotel again. I’m not so sure if he can extend or renew his visa after this.
Don’t Defame a Thai or a Thai Company
You don’t want to say something negative about a Thai or a company here unless you can prove that they are true. Because there are many negative reviews online on Thai hotels and other businesses, the owners are not going to go after everyone who leaves negative comments.
While other people are smart, they don’t have their full names online, so it’s tough to track them down. If you make things up, you post it online, and you repost it again and again. It hurts the company’s reputation because what you post is not true, or you can’t prove it. Then the Thais can go to the CyberCrime Investigation Bureau, with or without a lawyer, to file a complaint.
Thais file complaints to other Thais over comments on Facebook all the time, and people go to court to duke it out with or without a lawyer.
Suppose you plan to stay for an extended amount of time or planning to return to Thailand. It’s probably not a good idea to post something negative online about a Thai or a Thai company that you can not prove, along with your real name. You might as well give out your address in the country.
Authority Seize Your Passport
There was another incident with a Thai base Youtuber a few years back. He was alleged to be calling some Thai ladies monkeys in one of his videos. The Thai ladies found out, and they didn’t like it. Thai ladies went to file a complaint, the YouTuber didn’t get arrested, but the authority seized his passport, so he couldn’t get out of the country. I’m not sure if the YouTuber had to pay a fine to the court or pay the ladies or he won the case. But it is just to show you how easily people can sue for online defamation.
Now you might be saying that’s crazy, and there is no freedom of speech. Chances are, in your home country have them too. Even in the states where they have freedom of speech, but you can’t make things up that hurt someone’s reputation. People in the stats get sue for defamation all the time.
The difference between Thailand and the US, I think, is that in the US, it cost so much money to file a defamation case on someone. A lawyer can cost you $300 to $500 dollars an hour, so you really need a bit of money to file a defamation lawsuit in the west. Whereas here, it seems you can show up without a lawyer and file a complaint to go to court, might take half a day to get it done. At least that’s what I hear, and I could be wrong; I never experience it. BWT, none of this is legal or professional advice.
Alcohols and smoking
It’s important to know this if you plan to come here to party because you might not allow to purchase or consume alcohol during a particular holiday.
Then there are places you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol and being drunk. Many people travel to Thailand for a holiday, but most Thais are not on holiday; they live here.
Don’t drink alcohol or smoke in places like temples, inside shopping malls, schools, gas stations, hospitals, and public parks. You might see other tourists, even Thais drinking in those places, but it doesn’t mean it is ok for you to do.
In certain public or Buddhist holidays in the country, stores, shops, bars and restaurants ban the selling of alcohol. If you are coming to a party, it’s a good idea to know when they have these holidays banning the selling of booze. I have a calendar in my free ebook outlining these holidays. So make sure to download it for free to see when these holidays happen throughout the year, so you don’t end up coming here and can’t buy any beer.
Lastly, there is a smoking ban that came into effect in 2017. The law protects some 20 beaches in 15 provinces located along the Andaman coast and the Gulf of Thailand. The maximum punishment for those who violate the ban will be a fine of up to 100,000 baht (about US$3,000) and/or a prison term of up to one year.
List of Thai beaches banning smoking
- Phuket (Patong)
- Chon Buri (Bang Saen and Pattaya as well as Tam Pang on Ko Si Chang)
- Surat Thani (Bo Phut on Ko Samui)
- Krabi (Phra Ae and Khlong Dao on Ko Lanta)
- Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin and Khao Takiap)
- Phetchaburi (Cha-am)
- Phang-nga (Ko Khai Nok and Ko Khai Nai on Ko Yao)
- Songkhla (Chalatas)
- Pattani (Tha Wa Sukri)
- Rayong (Mae Phim)
- Chanthaburi (Laem Sing)
- Chumphon (Sai Ri)
Because too many cigarette butts were found and are toxic plastic pollution.
I think those are the most common laws you might have to be aware of as a tourist visiting. However, for the most part, if you have any common sense you won’t have any problem here. If you think I missed a Thai law that should have been on the list, leave a comment below and I’ll post about it in another article.
If you haven’t read the first article about this same topic, check out this article here.