Tourists Facing 10 Years in Prison for Vandalizing Ancient Thai Wall

Oct 24, 2018

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In Thailand, being offensive or disrespectful is a serious mistake. And for two tourists, the punishment could be up to 10 years in a provincial prison, in addition to fines of one million baht (roughly $30,450).

According to Reuters, Brittney Schneider of Canada and Furlong Lee of the UK were arrested last Friday for defacing an ancient wall in Chiang Mai.

The tourists, both 23, were caught spray-painting remains of a 13th-century fortress near the Tha Phae Gate. And it’s going to be hard for either Schneider or Lee to convince authorities to go easy on them. Reuters reported that the pair was documented committing the crime on a CCTV.

Police Major Anon Cherdchutrakulthong told Reuters “they admitted to the crime.” He added that “when people visit somewhere, they should know not to [leave] graffiti.”

Schneider’s mother Tara told Canada’s CBC News that, though bail money was sent to Thailand, her daughter must remain in Thailand until the trial — which might not be arranged for two months. She added that Canadian officials said there is “nothing they can do to change local laws in Thailand.”

Tourists behaving badly and defacing a historic site are, sadly, not a rarity.

In November of 2017, for example, Thai authorities fined two American tourists for taking a “butt selfie” in front of a Buddhist temple. And just one month later, an American couple was arrested at a Thai hotel after being filmed tagging a street in Bangkok.

Though butt selfies and vandalism are frowned upon, well, everywhere, travelers need to be especially cautious in this Southeast Asian nation. Here, public nudity is a seriously offensive act, and disrespecting the king in public (think: negative Facebook posts) can land you in prison.

As TPG senior writer Lori Zaino pointed out, there are a number of seemingly harmless behaviors that can be interpreted as rude or disrespectful in Thailand. Even though they might not all land you in prison for a decade, no one wants to be that traveler.

To avoid any cultural faux pas, never use your left hand to eat or pass objects to locals. When exploring Thailand’s famous temples, be sure to cover your shoulders and knees, and to remove your shoes. Never turn your back on Buddha, and be sure to mind your feet: keep them folded to the side or beneath you when sitting.

And seriously — do not insult the king or the Thai monarchy.

Feature photo by Chiang Mai News via AP. 

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