Memes of mercy for two SD men jailed in Thailand

Because Instagram photos of their butts bared at Wat Arun temple

Michelle Obama meme (altered from original #BringBackOurGirls campaign to rescue Nigerian schoolgirls)
  • Michelle Obama meme (altered from original #BringBackOurGirls campaign to rescue Nigerian schoolgirls)

Memes are usually captioned photos or short repetitive videos that go viral and transform to amuse, inspire, humor, or mystify people. A meme can also be only text that convey how the meme-poster feels at the time, although those aren’t as popular.

The Bangkok Post story

The Bangkok Post story

“Sad my friend and fashion model is in jail in Thailand now,” read a meme posted on the Facebook app by Francisco Medavog on November 29.

He posted this in response to his buddies, Travis and Joseph Dasilva, getting arrested in Thailand on November 28 at 8 p.m. (Thailand time) for taking a photo “honey-mooning” in the Wat Arun temple (Temple of Dawn) in Bangkok — and then posting the “bare-buttocks” photo on their Instagram account.

“It’s very sad they were arrested [for] doing something they love that is not pun intended,” Medavog said. “Thailand made a mistake by putting them in jail for such [a] thing.”

The Bangkok Post was one of the first English-language media outlets that broke the news in an article headlined “Americans arrested for bare buttocks at temple.”

The Bangkok Post reported that the men (38 and 36 years old) were “brought to the Bangkok Yai police station for legal action” and depicted a photo of the “Hillcrest residents” in the middle of five “immigration police” at the Don Mueang airport. The photo was taken shortly after they were arrested trying to leave the country on Tuesday.

The Dasilvas’ Instagram account, which was called “Traveling Butts,” where they are said to have posted similar photos in other parts of the world, has since been deactivated.

According to the Bangkok Post, Pol Col Jarupat Thongkomol, the chief of the Bangkok Yai police station, said that “both confessed to the act and had been fined 5000 baht ($153 USD) Tuesday night for getting naked in public,” and that they “were preparing more charges against the Americans, because they posted their photos on the internet and took photos of their naked body parts at a religious site.

“They would be charged with violating the computer crime law for posting pornographic pictures online and breaching Section 206 of the criminal law concerning behaviour at a religious place that insults the religion. The offence under the computer crime act is liable to a jail term of up to five years and/or a fine of up to 100,000 baht ($3020 USD). The wrongdoing under the criminal law concerning religious insults may result in a jail term of 1-7 years and/or a fine of 20,000-40,000 baht ($604-$1,208 USD).”

Medavog is a San Diego–based fashion designer. Although he’s been designing mostly women’s clothing since the age of 13, two weeks ago he showcased his first men’s lineup called the “Medavog Men’s 2018 Couture Collection” with Joseph Dasilva as one of his runway models at the Brick Bar in Hillcrest.

Joseph Dasilva, standing behind Francisco Medavog, up front

Joseph Dasilva, standing behind Francisco Medavog, up front

photo by Leo Malevanchik

“[I’ve known] them for their work as artists and performances for various charities,” he said. “Joseph just modeled my men’s collection on November 16 before [they left for] Thailand and [they are a] very kind, gay couple, always smiling and helping our community.”

Medavog then posted another meme that said, “My model at my first men’s show is being in jail now in Thailand so sad and disappointed with Asia overall on arresting Americans!” It wasn’t that popular and as of November 30 it had been taken down. Some responded to his memes by saying “good and they [the Dasilvas] [are] stupid and disrespectful [and] should know better.” Others were compassionate, and someone posted a meme of former first lady Michelle Obama holding up a sign that said #bringbackourbutts.

A later Bangkok Post report stated that the couple was then “detained at the immigration bureau in Bangkok [and] Pol Col Jarupat said police were expanding their investigation into the couple’s behaviour [sik] as police suspected they had committed similar offences [sik] … at the Wat Trai Mit Witthayaram (Golden Buddha temple) in Bangkok,” which is said to have the world’s largest solid gold Buddha image.

“No one wants to degrade sacred sites nor people’s own beliefs,” Medavog said, “obviously they are not criminals and should be treated with kindness.”

On November 28, the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reported that city human-rights commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez said the men reached out to him for assistance and he said “Though I am very disappointed in their actions, I am talking to U.S. government officials to see what assistance we can give them.”

UPDATE

On December 8th, the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reported immigration police were readying the Dasilvas for deportation.

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Comments

This Medavog character seems as oblivious as his friends. If they break the laws of another country, that does in fact make them criminals... in fact, that's kind of the definition of a criminal. I'm not sure why Thai authorities should take it easy on people who desecrate a place of worship and why he thinks a social media campaign that makes light of their crimes would be helpful is beyond me. While openly disrespecting other people's cultures is common in the US, once you leave, "freedom of speech" is no longer a cop out you can reliably count on.

Whenever I'm outside the US, even to Canada, I take care to be respectful, and keep my comments to myself. (Thinking something is one thing, speaking it or acting on it is another.) It is important to remember that the country you are visiting belongs to other people who may have some beliefs or mores that are strange to you. That's something these guys forgot and apparently forget frequently on their travels. If you want to do something like that in a foreign country don't double down on dumb and post it for the world to see while you are still in that country. At least wait until you are home!

I'm not particularly supportive of Thailand or its government, but in this case the offense taken is real, and if these two end up in a serious situation, it only serves them right.

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