Opinion: Thai OnlyFans arrest shows divide in Thai society

A Thai law student and her boyfriend have been arrested for selling sex videos on OnlyFans. The young couple, 19 and 20 years old, are charged with distributing pornographic materials content online for commercial purposes. If found guilty they can be imprisoned for three years. The duo could also be charged with the Computer Crime Act.

This case has got people talking about criminalization of sex work in Thailand, how it is out of step with social reality. The Thai public is well aware that Thailand’s underground sex industry is a source of enormous side income for the police.

While sex work remains illegal under Thai law, more and more young Thais see sex work as legitimate employment that should no longer be illegal, so that sex workers can enjoy rights and benefits.  

The young woman at the center of this case is known by her social media handle “Kai Nao” (rotten egg). Kai Nao became a sensation on OnlyFans, a London-based service where content creators can earn income from subscribers, and recently caught the authorities’ attention when she started posting reviews of the platform on YouTube, sharing tips on how to create popular content and earn good money on OnlyFans. She said she earned nearly a million baht in three months on that platform. 

Kai Nao says she believes that the body is natural and enjoys taking sexy pictures of herself. Besides OnlyFans, she also shared her sexy photos and videos on Twitter to a large audience. She has hope to use her legal education to promote sex work and make it acceptable in society.

For now that aspiration will have to be put on hold. Before the arrest, she announced ending her activities on OnlyFans and her Twitter account has since been suspended.

Divided opinions

Thai netizens are not pleased with the arrest. Many think it is petty, unnecessary and hypocritical.

The couple were initially denied bail. In Thailand, even child rape and murder suspects are often given bail. (Only after heavy criticism the police relented and let the young couple out on bail and a condition that they won’t do it again.)

The authorities’ heavy-handed approach to this couple is seen as a show to “kill a chicken to scare the monkeys”—to make an example. Kai Nao is an “extremely bad example” for young Thais, they say. The arrest will likely have some effect. Thai OnlyFans content creators are now lying low or start deleting content. Thai police say they will coordinate with OnlyFans to close down Thai accounts with pornographic content. 

The Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau of the Royal Thai Police defended their actions in a press conference on Tuesday that they “must arrest” the young couple “to uphold the good morals and tradition in Thai society, otherwise people will be misled to think that it’s a right thing to do.”

Pol. Lt-Gen. Kornchai Klaiklueng, head of CCIB, further predicts that when Kai Nao has a child in the future, her child could find out what she has done and suffer from depression.

As Kai Nao and her boyfriend run afoul with Thai law and authorities, their case highlights a shift in social values. The young couple are of a new generation that sees things very differently from the traditional Thai norms.

Changing norms

Some young netizens lament on social media that you can’t even do what you wish with your own body. Whereas authorities talk about upholding morals, young Thais talk about consent and individual rights and freedom. On OnlyFans as well as on Twitter, there are many accounts sharing adult content. Some of these accounts even have a profile wearing police uniform with a link to an OnlyFans account. 

Young Thais, glued to social media daily, can see many discrepancies between the words and action of authorities. While the police go on about morality, just a day or two ago the public was outraged by Buriram police who told the mother of a 13-year-old gang rape survivor to negotiate with the rape suspects, ten of them. The girl was lured via Facebook chat and was raped for three days by ten men, aged 13 to 50. The police were reportedly “concerned about the future” of the young rape suspects in the case. What kind of morality is this? And what about the future of Kai Nao and her boyfriend? 

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