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Thailand Cautions Women Against 'Underboob Selfies'

Citing both potential harm to society and the Computer Crimes Act, Thailand's Culture Ministry is urging women to resist what it says is a new trend of taking photos that focus on the midriff and the lower portion of their breasts.

The warning was issued Monday — and a ministry official acknowledged that in speaking out against an online trend, the agency ran the risk of drawing more attention to it.

News site Thai Visa reports that Yupha Thaweewattanakijborworn, the director of the Culture Watch Office of the Culture Ministry, "urged the Thai media not to play up the trend if the media has not seen underboob selfies by Thai women yet. She explained that such reports might backfire rather than doing good to the society."

Noting that Thailand's Computer Crimes Act of 2007 includes a provision against pornography, Reuters says offenders who are convicted could face five years in prison. But it's unclear how they might possibly be identified.

From the news agency:

" 'When people take these "underboob selfies" no one can see their faces,' ministry spokesman Anandha Chouchoti told Reuters. 'So it's like, we don't know who these belong to, and it encourages others to do the same.

" 'We can only warn people to not take it up. They are inappropriate actions.' "

Reporting on the Thai ministry's announcement, The Daily Dot tells us that the 2007 law it invokes "says nothing about breasts, which are of course present on some 50 percent of people in Thailand and around the world."

This isn't the first time Thailand, which has seen a spike in human rights complaints since its former prime minister was forced from office last year, has sought to rein in "selfie" photos that are deemed a troubling social media trend.

Last February, the country's Department of Mental Health tried to discourage young people from becoming obsessed with selfies, saying "that they could lose self-confidence and that the addiction could have a negative impact on their life and work," according to the Bangkok Post.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.