Skip to main content

Thai locals arrested over Rihanna Instagram photo

By CNN Staff
September 24, 2013 -- Updated 0615 GMT (1415 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two Thais arrested after Rihanna posts Instagram photo of endangered loris in Phuket
  • Illegal to charge tourists money to take photos with the endangered primates
  • Rihanna also tweets about visit to bizarre Thailand sex shows

Bangkok (CNN) -- Two men in Thailand are in trouble with the law thanks to an Instagram photo posted by pop star Rihanna during her recent visit to the holiday island of Phuket.

The singer was visiting Phuket for a few days between stops on her Diamonds World Tour, departing on Sunday for Singapore.

Opinion: Rihanna is spot on about Phuket problems

During Rihanna's visit she shared many of her experiences on Twitter and Instagram, including a photo of her holding a loris -- an endangered primate native to Southeast Asia.

Rihanna causes stir with furry Instagram
Can Rihanna help with truancy?
Rihanna fans revolt

The Instagram picture, believed to have been taken at Phuket nightlife hotspot Bangla Road, was captioned "Look who was talkin dirty to me!" and "liked" by more than 230,000 viewers.

The problem is, it's illegal for anyone to charge tourists money to take photos with the endangered primates -- an issue wildlife groups have long been trying to stamp out on the island.

More: 12 international laws you may not realize you're breaking

Thai authorities react swiftly

Officials in Thailand quickly went on the defensive when outrage over Rihanna's loris image spread.

The government ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources and local Phuket officials to urgently investigate the matter, reported local website Phuketnews.com.

Sunday night, a raid on suspected touts led to the arrest of two men, aged 16 and 20, who were taken to a local police station and presented to the media.

"It is very difficult to do the raids because the touts have spies," Awat Nithikul, leader of the patrol officers, told The Phuket News.

"If someone hears that the police are coming their way, there will be a person who calls the touts and tells them to move. But this is a big deal because it might affect Thailand's reputation."

The newspaper says the two arrested touts are waiting to be bailed, and the two lorises in their possession will be returned to a national park in the nearby province of Phang Nga.

More: 6 most cliched Bangkok tourist photo ops

Rihanna's X-rated experiences

It wasn't just the loris issue that stirred up controversy during Rihanna's visit.

Rihanna's tweets about her X-rated experiences relating to some of the country's more infamous tourist attractions also led to red-faced explanations by embarrassed officials.

According to the Bangkok Post, an English-language daily newspaper, Rihanna's tweets led to one official saying, "Sex shows were completely against the law."

"The authorities and law officials have surveyed the area to arrest and fine those involved [in staging sex shows]," he said. "But the shows still happen."

On the flip side, some of the photos posted during Rihanna's holiday will likely be appreciated by the local tourism industry -- including multiple shots of her in bathing suits that show off the area's gorgeous scenery -- given she does have more than 9.7 million Instagram followers.

Opinion: Rihanna is spot on about Phuket problems

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2042 GMT (0442 HKT)
From Maastricht to Melbourne, these itineraries make bookish travelers look stylish.
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
Good cocktails combine with spectacular views across rivers, cityscapes and oceans at these bird-level drinkeries.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1809 GMT (0209 HKT)
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 0226 GMT (1026 HKT)
Cinema loves portraying the lives of expats. Sometimes it gets it right. Sometimes it casts Nick Nolte as a jungle king.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0117 GMT (0917 HKT)
Don't be intimidated, says a local expert. Here's how to do China without the hassles
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
When your city has an unenviable reputation for insulting tourists and fleecing them for every cent, inviting hotel guests to pay what they want could be a risky move.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 0710 GMT (1510 HKT)
1937 Auto Union V16 Streamliner, Audi Museum, Germany
With factory tours and collections of stunning vintage prototypes, southern Germany is petrolhead paradise.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
Every tourist destination has a flip side, a season when prices go down and savvy, flexible travelers can score big savings.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0711 GMT (1511 HKT)
A Marrakech lamp bazaar
Morocco's Red City is crammed with stunning gardens, shaded souks and steamy bath houses.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
Santo Stefano Island, Italy
Pristine beaches, unspoiled nature and few tourists -- a stretch on these former penal colonies is no longer a punishment.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0923 GMT (1723 HKT)
Life in Joburg can be stressful. Luckily there are some exceedingly non-stressful places close by.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 0907 GMT (1707 HKT)
Istanbul skyline
CNN's Ivan Watson pays homage to the city he's called home for the past 12 years.
China notches up another superlative achievement as a Nanjing-based artist creates the world's largest and longest anamorphic painting.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 2002 GMT (0402 HKT)
In what is undoubtedly the world's "coolest" surf video, photographer Chris Burkhard endures freezing temperatures, blizzards and injury to capture Arctic waves and their riders.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0339 GMT (1139 HKT)
Few airline routes are as cutthroat as the one that travels between London and New York. It is the world's busiest route and there are few lengths airlines won't go to in the hopes of getting a piece of the action.
ADVERTISEMENT