A Canadian woman who was arrested in northern Thailand for spraying paint on an ancient wall has avoided more jail time, but must still pay a $4,000 fine for her actions.
Brittney Schneider, who is from Grande Prairie, Alta., was arrested along with British resident Lee Furlong on Oct. 18 after they sprayed the walls of the Tha Pae Gate – part of a 13th-century structure that forms a square around Chiang Mai’s inner city.
They were charged with vandalizing an ancient artifact and faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine equivalent to about $40,000.
Schneider, who turned 23 earlier this month, and Furlong, also 23, had previously said she was “ridiculously drunk” when they found a can of spray paint and picked it up.
They both appeared in court in Thailand on Monday.
“We went in and the judge called our names and we both stood up,” Schneider said in an interview from Chiang Mai. “At first, she had sentenced us to two years in prison and a fine of 100,000 baht (C$4,000) and then she paused and then she reduced it to one year in prison and the same fine.
“Then I looked at her and I said, ‘Jail?’ and she reduced it again to a one-year suspended sentence and the fine of 100,000 baht.”
Schneider said she thought she might drop to the floor when the judge initially said two years in prison.
“My legs were shaking and I couldn’t hear her anymore,” she said. “I just saw her mouth moving and I was so scared and then she reduced it and I still felt the same way. I couldn’t believe it when she said no prison. I was just so relieved and so happy and I just couldn’t believe it.”
She said she has learned a lot in the past month.
“I am very sorry for what I did to everyone in Thailand,” said Schneider. “I’ve learned that you need to research the country before you are travelling to it and understand their culture and things that are special to them – like monuments and temples and all of that – before you are going.”
Schneider does not yet know when she can return home. They must wait for the court to send paperwork to immigration authorities stating that her case is closed.
Her mom, Tara Schneider, and her aunt had flown to Thailand from Alberta in the days after the charges were filed. They spent their days visiting temples and an orphanage until the case could be heard in the courts.
She said she’s relieved she will soon be able to bring her daughter home.
“They said two or three days after court and court was yesterday,” said Tara Schneider.
Brittney Schneider said she’s looking forward to getting back to work and school.
She’s hoping others learn from her experience.
“I’m just very sorry for what I’ve done,” she said.
“I hope other people who have seen my story can learn from my mistake and not make the same one.”