Usually, laws and regulations dictate what is considered a crime in a country. But sometimes, some countries draw a clear line in the gray zone, resulting in serious yet bizarre law enforcement — and Thailand is no exception. Do you know any Thai law that is strict yet strange?
Thailand has several strict but controversial laws on an international level. The most infamous one is section 112, which prevents anyone from accusing royalty of any crime. Moreover, regulations concerning abortion, firearms, pornography, gambling, and more are enforced with severe penalties.
You should be aware of these laws when staying in the country. Since some regulations can be unexpected, you could unknowingly land yourself in jail. So, read on to learn more about Thailand’s weird laws that you should be aware of.
What Strange Things Are Forbidden by Law in Thailand?
First, you need to understand that every country sees things differently.
Object A might be a sacred relic in country X. But in country Y, the same object A could be just a piece of garbage. So, the law surrounding object A in both countries could vastly differ from the polarizing perspectives.
For example, cows in India are respected more than cows in England. Why? Because in Hinduism, cows are the sacred mount of an important deity. So, many Indians treat this livestock with utter caution. They even ban cow slaughter in some parts of the country.
In short, look at law through the same lens as culture. After all, regulation is what happens when tradition gets serious. So, what’s legal in your country might be illegal somewhere else.
With that out of the way, here are 8 controversial laws you should know of in Thailand.
1. Section 112
Do you know That Thailand has a monarch? If you don’t, you really need to do your homework. The country is called “The Kingdom of Thailand” after all.
The problem with a monarch in a democratic country is where this “special class” stand in the “hierarchy of power.”
The heart of democracy is that everyone should be equally powerful. Everyone has the same right to voice opinions and cast votes in a conflict. So, what do you do with a special societal class like royalty?
Thailand utilizes a solution that the royal family is under the same laws as everyone else. They have no political power and are just respected figures in the country.
But since they are so revered, Thai people decide to add a special law into their constitution regarding these people. And that is section 112 or the Majesty law, preventing anyone from accusing them of any crimes.
And on many occasions, this law extends to cover verbal assault of the royal family too. You cannot voice any negative opinion regarding the monarch or his family — physically or online.
Yes, this might contrast with the core of democracy. However, it is what it is in Thailand.
There is a movement to cancel this law. Nevertheless, as of 2023, the process doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and this law still exists.
So next time you go to Thailand, don’t go bad-mouthing the monarch or his family in public. Or else you could get thrown into jail for a long time.
2. Addictive Drugs/Plants
When it comes to drugs, most countries agree to ban them. However, the ban list can be quite different from country to country.
Thailand’s illegal drug list looks quite similar to anywhere else, including methamphetamine, heroin, opium, LSD, and others.
However, since 2022, the substance that has almost broken the country is marijuana/Ganja/Cannabis.
By “almost broken,” it doesn’t mean that the substance is plaguing the country. But there has been an idea to lift the ban on the plant and make it legal.
As you can probably imagine, this idea divides the country into 2 sides: those who agree and those who don’t.
As of February 2023, the council has not concluded this debate yet. There is the potential for Thailand to benefit from medical cannabis, but the threat of improper use is still looming. So, the Marijuana law is still stuck in the vacuum. Nobody seems to know if it’s 100% legal or not.
If anything, stay away from it for now. Wait until there’s an official announcement, and get your hand on it later.
Another plant that has been all the rage recently is Kratom. After being banned for 41 years, it was removed from the blacklist in 2021.
If you’ve never heard of Kratom, think of it as a leaf with a similar effect to strong coffee plus pain medicine but more addictive. You can look at it as a weaker version of methamphetamine as well.
Consuming this plant is quite easy too. You can chew, smoke, and even brew it for tea. So, Kratom is quite famous among construction workers, truck drivers, and other hard-labors.
Other common addictive substances like cigarettes and alcohol are legal. However, you must be 20+ to buy these products from a convenience store. And you cannot purchase it during working hours on weekdays too.
▸ Learn more about Thailand's alcohol laws here: Alcohol Laws in Thailand: What’s the Legal Drinking Age?
Driving in Thailand can be considered more on the “lax” side of the scale.
Thai citizens can register to get a driving license at the age of 18. Meaning: you can drive around the country in your final high school year.
But that might be unrelated to a foreigner like you. After all, the international driving license would be much more convenient for you to get.
However, the driving law you must be aware of is “driving on the left.”
There are only a few countries that drive on the left. And Thailand is one of them. So, if you come from the USA or any right-driving country, you better practice before hitting the road.
Another bizarre law in Thailand is the speed limit on the highway and tollways. People want to go fast on these paths, so the speed limit should apply only to the minimum number.
In Thailand, however, that’s not the case. No matter how fast you want to go, there is always a cap. Most highways and tollways allow you to go as fast as 120 km/h. Some even lower it down to 90. This results in slow highway traffic — almost as slow as the regular roads.
But at least there’s no red light there.
The final knit pick about traffic law in Thailand is shirtless driving. No matter what your gender is, you can’t drive without covering your top — no need to mention the bottom.
You can be shirtless at home (Thailand is a hot country, after all), but not while driving in public.
▸ Learn more about driving in Thailand here: Thailand Driving Side: Why Do Thais Drive on the Left?
4. Sex and Marriage
Sex is an awkward topic in Thailand. And the law surrounding it can be wild too.
Anything sex-related in Thailand is 18+. Before that, it’s a big “no-no.” Sexual intercourse between an adult and a child is a crime, even though it’s consensual.
Pornography is ok in Thailand. As long as the actor or actress in the media is 18+, owning, watching, and sharing them is legal — physically or online.
However, not all the pornography websites in the world are available in Thailand. The most infamous example is Pornhub. The country decided to ban this world-renowned porn site in 2020 for obscure reasons.
Some speculate that the content on the website includes child pornography. Others claim that they ban it because of the appearance of the country’s influential figure on the website’s videos.
To this day, the actual reason is still unknown. But the fact that this world-famous website is banned was massive news back in 2020. Many locals have voiced their dissatisfaction with this ban to the government, but nothing changed.
Another bizarre law about sex is the prostitution ban. But why is it bizarre? Because no other countries ban it and still profit from it.
Thailand is world-famous for its sex tourism. So, it’s surprising that this law exists in this country. In other words, you can say that this law is there, but the enforcement is weak.
For marriage, Thailand has not legalized marriage of the same sex yet. And that is strange considering how easily you can meet an LGBTQ in the country. Thailand is one of the more open countries in this regard. So, seeing this law might create a heavy dissonance in your mind.
Of course, there have been movements to legalize LGBTQ marriage. But like many law-related movements in this country, nothing seems to progress.
▸ Learn more about traditional Thai weddings here: Thailand Wedding Traditions: How Do Thais Get Married?
5. Life and Death
When it comes to “life” in Thailand, your only legal choice is to live.
Abortion is a “no” in this country. You cannot go to the hospital and ask the doctor to get rid of the fetus in any way. So, if you decide to have sex in Thailand, ensure you can take full responsibility.
However, this doesn’t mean that abortion is impossible in this country. You can still find illegal places for the job at some dark corners of the street. After all, unwanted pregnancy is a massive problem in the country, so there’s a way out, even though it’s not perfectly moral.
On the other side of life, Euthanasia — mercy killing — is also forbidden in Thailand. This is still common in most countries.
However, there is one death-related law that still exists in Thailand. And that is a “death sentence.” That’s right. You can go to court and be sentenced to die in this country.
The last time anyone was put on their “dead bed” in Thailand was in 2009. So, you can safely say that it won’t be utilized again. But still, the law remains to this day.
Owning a firearm is legal in Thailand. However, you need appropriate licenses and other documents to store guns in your house. Or else you can go to jail for that.
Never carry any firearm in public unless it’s a part of your job. The only time you see anyone (other than the police and the like) with a gun is during robberies or gang activities.
Getting a gun in Thailand is difficult too. There’s no such thing as a gun shop in this country. The only legal way you get your hands on them is through the authority. A “connection” might be required too.
Other weapons — like knives, swords, and other sharp objects — are ok to own too. But again, you should never carry it out in public. There have been many cases of police arresting men with knives, daggers, and swords on the street.
The not-so-funny thing about weapons in Thailand concerns bombs. More specifically, ping-pong bombs.
Of course, possessing any bomb is illegal in Thailand. However, this ping-pong bomb is super easy to make. As a result, many gangsters use them in fights. And to add insult to injury, there have been many unintentional explosions in the country. People have lost their limbs to this tiny yet devastating explosive.
7. Money, Property, and Gambling
Everyone loves money. So the act of destroying a banknote or coin is illegal in Thailand.
In a way, you can’t even intentionally damage it. This is not an actual law but more of a tradition. Since the faces of the Kings are printed on the banknotes, Thai people consider damaging them extremely rude.
But who in their right mind would tear or burn cash, right? So, let’s move on to the next point, property.
In the past, foreigners could not own land, property, or business in Thailand. This results in many foreign investors running their business in Thailand through proxy: like with husbands/wives, friends, or relatives.
However, in 2023, this law is about to change. Now, foreigners can own land and properties in some areas of Thailand.
The government claims that doing this will stimulate investment in the country. However, many locals see this new law as unpatriotic, accusing them of (literally) selling the nation for personal profit.
So, if you want to buy a property in Thailand, you might want to wait a bit.
Another cash-related topic is gambling. And in short, all forms of gambling are illegal in Thailand — physical or online.
There’s no official Casino in the country. And all the online casinos you see on the internet are illegal.
Even carrying playing cards in public can put you at risk of imprisonment. If the police saw you with them, they might suspect you of committing crimes. Even though you use it for magic shows, it’s still recommended that you don’t do it on the street.
▸ Learn more about buying property in Thailand here: Can Foreigners Buy Property (and Own Land) in Thailand?
Thailand is quite open when it comes to religion.
You can choose your faith and belief in any way you like. But most locals will go with Buddhism. It’s the national religion, after all.
However, you should never purchase a physical Buddha’s image for entertainment. Their only use is for paying respect, not for decorations.
Nevertheless, the law doesn’t forbid you from purchasing Buddha’s images. In the end, nobody can read your mind to know what you will do with it after paying the money. But still, most Thai would discourage you from buying one anyway.
And if you really want one, don’t buy it from museums or ancient sites. You should know that those are invaluable historical objects. They’re not for sale. Buying them at a temple or “religion shop” would be your best bet.
▸ Learn more about religion in Thailand here: The National Religion & Other Major Religions in Thailand
Thai laws — Thai style
There you have it. 8 laws you should be aware of before going to Thailand. You might already be familiar with some of them, yet some might have caught you off guard. So, do your research.
And remember, no matter how strange and strict some regulations can be, they are a part of local life. What they respect in Thailand is different from yours. So, please respect their law when you are in Their country.
Like always, if you want to learn more about Thailand, stay with ThaiGuider. You might discover something you never knew about this unique country.
▸ Learn more about Thai jails here: What Happens (& What To Do) If You Are Arrested in Thailand
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