A screenshot of a message with alleged sexual undertones sent by a Foodpanda rider to a female customer has gone viral after it was posted on Facebook, drawing heavy criticism from netizens.
In the chat, the driver sent a message to a customer, saying "Customer [when you come out to pick up your stuff, please wear a bra. I don't feel comfortable [if you don't wear one]."
Apparently, the rider was referring to an awkward incident in which the customer he was supposed to deliver food to picked up her order without wearing a bra.
The post, which has been shared extensively since it was first posted, drew a barrage of criticism from netizens, especially women who believed the message had sexual undertones and, as such, was improper.
"Whether a woman chooses to wear a bra or not, that is her personal right. It doesn't mean anyone can harass or humiliate her," a netizen wrote.
Others defended the woman, saying many women choose not to wear a bra at home in order to feel more comfortable, and she probably did not think it was necessary to put one on for a couple of minutes just to pick up a food order.
However, some disagreed with their view. Several food delivery riders shared their experiences, but notably, some others said they believed these women deliberately wore no undergarment to seduce them.
They said while it might be acceptable to go bra-less overseas, that isn't the case in Thailand where sexual crimes are common.
They called on women to better protect themselves from sexual violence.
Foodpanda Thailand later issued a public apology, pledging to investigate the matter and punish the rider in question.
Criminologists, women's rights activists and state officials told the Bangkok Post that food delivery companies need to screen employees better to prevent such incidents from happening.
Pol Lt Col Krisanaphong Poothakool, an associate professor in criminology and assistant president of Rangsit University, said companies need to look into prospective employees' behavioral records before hiring them as riders.
"It's very important for companies to do criminal background checks to see if their employees have a track record of sexual violence and harassment. AI systems can help to detect them,'' he said.
Pol Lt Col Krisanaphong said efforts to prevent crime need to be backed up by technology such as GPS tracking.
Such mechanisms will deter food riders from committing crimes because they can be arrested immediately, he said.
"Dressing is a basic right and cannot be used to justify sexual harassment. However, people are advised to protect themselves as well, considering we live side-by-side with other people.
"Schools and families can influence people's attitudes [to sexual harassment]. It is important to teach children to respect others," he said.
Meanwhile, Supensri Puengkoksung, a children and women's rights activist and the director of the Social Equality Promotion Foundation, said the rider's mindset reflects the root cause of sexual harassment in Thai society.
Attitudes towards sex in society remain unequal between genders, as many males were never taught to be more respectful in expressing their opinions when it comes to sex, she said.
Ms Supensri then said Foodpanda's apology simply wasn't enough, as in her view, the rider must be appropriately punished to deter other riders from behaving inappropriately towards customer, both directly and indirectly.
"The company should train its riders to behave better," she said.
Deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, said riders who are found guilty of sexually harassing customers can be jailed for a month and/or face a 10,000-baht fine.
Meanwhile, riders who share obscene photos of customers on social media face five years in prison and a 100,000-baht fine.
He urged customers who experienced sexual harassment to immediately file complaints with the police.
Jintana Chanbumrung, director-general of Department of Women's Affairs and Family Development, said she had sent a letter to urge Foodpanda to better screen its employees' behaviour.