Two backpackers are facing a traveler's worst nightmare in Thailand - the possibility of ten years in prison after they defaced a monument while drunk. Backpackers in Thailand generally have a bit of a reputation; it's a common place for gap-year students to go to, or travelers who are looking for a party vibe and a cheap way to have a lot of drunk fun and full moon parties on the beach. For many, Thailand is seen as a paradise for backpackers - tourist friendly, budget friendly, and beachy... but that can occasionally lead travelers to behaving less than perfectly while away from home.
Many travelers have run into trouble in Thailand for partying a little too hard and forgetting that they aren't at home, where offenses will likely be written off as 'shenanigans' and followed up by a slap on the wrist or community service. Drug smuggling commonly lands travelers in Thai jails, but much smaller crimes such as exposed butts for Instagram, using railroad tracks to flatten coins, and even feeding fish or posting unflattering pictures of the Royal Family. Now, two tourists are facing up to ten years for drunkenly tagging a wall in Northern Thailand.
On Oct 18, Furlong Lee (UK) and Brittney Schneider (Canada) were arrested in Chiang Mai after spraypainting an 800 year old wall on their way home from a night out. Both travelers are 23, and staying in the same hostel. After a night of drinking, they found a can of spray paint near the Tha Pae Gate, the entrance to Chiang Mai’s medieval old town. Lee then sprayed 'Scouser Lee' on the wall, and Scheider painted a 'B' before stopping. Both have said that they were incredibly intoxicated at the time, with Lee describing himself as 'blind drunk' and Schneider using the phrase 'ridiculously drunk'.
The pair were arrested after being caught on CCTV, and charged with 'vandalising an ancient site'. The crime carries a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment and a fine of a one million baht (around $30,000). Both have now been released on bail and are awaiting trial in Thailand. Police Major Anon Cherdchutrakulthong said of the pair that 'They admitted to the crime. When people visit somewhere they should know not to (leave) graffiti'.
It should be made clear that ten years in a Thai prison is the worst case scenario for this pair, and it is very probable that they will be let off with a much lighter sentence. Other tourists such as the 'butt selfie' pair have been let go with a stiff fine rather than jail time, but this is absolutely not guaranteed. The wall itself has been scrubbed clean, and now these backpackers will simply have to wait and see if the Thai courts choose to accept that their crime was alcohol-fueled and not malicious, or if they want to make an example of them as a way to deter other travelers from letting loose and causing problems on vacation.