Laws in Thailand may differ from your home country. If you plan to travel to Thailand it is of importance to do a check on what may be legal or illegal to do during your stay. Be sure not to break the following while in the country. These are 6 of Thailand’s top laws.
1. Lese Majeste
Thailand’s lese majeste law is one of the strictest versions of the law in the world. Simply put, it is illegal to insult, defame, or threaten the King, Queen, heir apparent, or regent. This even includes mistreatment of currency since the King’s image is displayed on Thai baht. The law really does not state what constitutes insults, defamation, or threats, and thus may be interpreted loosely. Despite how you feel about the Thai government, this is not your country. While here you are a visitor. Thus, do not break this law or you may wind up facing extremely serious time in prison.
2. Visa Laws
Obviously, check your country’s embassy for the most up to date information on visa laws. No visa is needed for U.S. citizens if staying less than 30 days. You will fill out a small immigration card before entering the country. Next, an immigration official will take a photo of you. I don’t actually stay at hotels while in Thailand due to my wife being a Thai citizen. My first time in Thailand I tried to explain this to the official. He insisted I write down a hotel name still. I had to call my wife and ask her to just tell me a hotel name in Bangkok. So even if your are staying with a Thai friend you will still need to at least know a hotel name to jot down on the immigration card.
A traveler can obtain a tourist visa if wanting to stay longer than 30 days. These visas are good for 90 days. Extensions are also available with these visas but require physically leaving the country. Expats here will do what is called a border run for this reason. Again, check your country’s embassy for the most current info.
Many people have heard of Thailand’s strict drug laws. Movies have even been made in regard to these laws. Thailand breaks down drugs into narcotics and psychotropics. Heroin, cocaine, opium, morphine, codeine, and even the chemicals used in making some of these drugs fall into the narcotics side. Fines and prison time are punishment for breaking these. Also taken into account will be if there was an intent to distribute, quantity, and past history. On the psychotropics side are drugs such as marijuana, Xanax, Valium, and psychedelic mushrooms.
Xanax was once prevalent in Thailand. Travelers buying Xanax without a prescription was common. Those days are over. Severals years ago, the country banned Xanax. Marijuana is also important to talk about. Thailand is currently undergoing a period of relaxing on marijuana laws. A medical marijuana law was approved in December of 2018. The king will next need to sign the bill. As of today, recreational marijuana is still illegal. Authorities are charging Thai people less and looking the other way for just simple possession. Police may not be as generous to tourists. In fact, the police may set you up for a bribe. It’s best just not to partake at the current time.
It is the law to carry identification on you at all times as a visitor in Thailand. This also means do not give away your passport to anyone. You may be asked to leave your passport behind if renting a motorbike, but it may be a scam. I would leave my passport at my apartment from time to time during my stay in Thailand. One of these times was during Songkran Festival. I didn’t want my passport to get wet due to water soaking being popular at this time. Then while at a temple I witnessed police searching cars that were leaving. The police had left by the time we finished viewing the temple. It did make me worry, although my wife assured me they were just looking for bad people. Save yourself from the worry and carry your ID with you.
Prostitution is illegal in Thailand despite what some may believe. Does it still occur? Of course. Although lately the police have been cracking down somewhat. Many locals view the girls as having little other options. People also think punishment of the girls if caught should end. Sadly, there are many people that visit Thailand just for the sex industry. Thai girls are not the only prostitutes either. Many of the girls are now from Russia as well. Myself, I would never condone coming to Thailand for this reason. Hopefully, the government stops the industry one day.
Gambling is also illegal in Thailand…sort of. Huts do still operate as casinos. Also, during Songkran Festival, the police will look the other way. It’s popular to gamble with family and friends during this time for some. However, after Songkran…watch out. The same policeman that walked right by you earlier will now not stand for it. For tourists, it is best to avoid illegal gambling altogether even if you are able to find a gambling hut. Thailand does have a lottery which is a legal form of gambling. The Thai National Lottery can also be won by foreigners. Street vendors sell tickets in many areas throughout Bangkok. In rural Thailand, I have often seen tickets being sold outside of 7-11 stores. While not as popular as the lottery, betting on horse races is legal too.