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The graffiti at Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai Thailand.

Graffiti Vandals Slash At “The Diamond in the Crown of Thailand”


The so called “Mother of a jackass Liverpool backpacker” who is looking at ten stiff years inside a Thai prison for spray-painting 'Scouse Lee' on an 800-year-old fortress says she’s “embarrassed and ashamed.”

Total Lack of Respect

Lee Furlong (23) was caught on Thursday on CCTV spraying black paint on the historic Tha Phae gate in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. Chiang Mai or "Chiangmai" is the largest city in northern Thailand and was the former capital of the kingdom of Lan Na between AD 1296 and 1768, succeeding Chiang Rai, the former capital founded in AD 1262.

Furlong decided that the ancient Thai city needed some modern western wisdom and used a can of black spray paint, to first incorrectly write 'Scousse Lee.” Seeing the stupidity of his ways he then changed it to 'Scouser Lee.’ A Canadian by the name of Brittany Schneider then became his accomplice by adding a letter 'B' below. According to a report in the Daily Mail. Furlong’s graffiti kicked off “outrage among locals in Chiang Mai" who angrily accused him of “disrespecting the ancient 13th century monument and their country.” Thailand is a country where ideals of respect for tradition and heritage seem to remain far stronger than the prevailing Western attitudes today.

Tha Phae Gate of the city wall, Chiang Mai, Thailand. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Tha Phae Gate of the city wall, Chiang Mai, Thailand. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A Mother’s Mitigation

Lee’s mother, Michelle Furlong, from Liverpool, attempted to justify her son’s embarrassing behavior with “his rare brain condition - Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.” According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine this specific complex is a “genetic disorder” characterized by the growth of numerous noncancerous (benign) tumors in many parts of the body. These tumors can occur in the skin, brain, kidneys, and other organs, causing developmental problems and ‘behavioral problems’ such as “hyperactivity and aggression, and intellectual disability or learning problems.”

It is unsure just what part of this incident was caused by his illness, and what is sheer ignorance. Today, Furlong stated that he was now 'terrified' and that he had been 'blind drunk' when he picked up the can of black spray, while Brittany also described herself as “ridiculously drunk”. Furlong’s mum told reporters today that she was “absolutely devastated, mortified and so scared,” and added that she was “embarrassed and ashamed.” Talking about her son she said he “He has always struggled in educational situations and obviously emotional situations - and has always had difficulties.”

British Furlong Lee, right, and Canadian Brittney Schneider, second right, stand at the wall near the Tha Pae Gate in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. (Youtube Screenshot)

British Furlong Lee, right, and Canadian Brittney Schneider, second right, stand at the wall near the Tha Pae Gate in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. (Youtube Screenshot)

A report about the incident in The Independent said “According to Thai media reports, the CCTV footage was recovered by police from a cafe near the historic gate and shows the pair spray painting it at 4am on Thursday.” Mr Furlong and Ms Schneider were both involved in the incident and the pair of yobs were arrested at their guest house the following day and reports confirmed that they were “taken to the site where they reportedly showed where they had spray painted the wall.”

Proud Culture

The graffiti had been quickly removed by Thai authorities using non-abrasive cleaning techniques which was sympathetic to this ancient building. The 800-year-old wall is once again safe, but the charges will still be severe, for Furlong did not offend a static brick wall, he stabbed a knife into the pulsing cultural heart of the Thai people. Speaking of Chiang Mai, in 1883 King Rama V said that it “represents the prime diamond on the crown of Thailand, the crown cannot be sparkle and beauteous without the diamond…" So effectively, Lee Furlong in his “drunken stupor,” accidentally chose the worst possible location in all of Asia to display his incorrectly spelt words. This readers, is a new level of anti-culture.

Wat Tilok Aram: The 500-Year-Old Underwater Temple of Thailand

And when it comes to ‘culture’ in Buddhist countries, it’s a flowing element in the veins and thoughts of the farmers, street traders and everyday people that keep Thailand one of the world’s most peaceful countries. Goodness knows if the defense lawyers will manage to cut through the severity of this act of vandalism and get his sentence reduced form the maximum penalty of a decade behind bars.

Just Deserts?

Obviously, remorsefully, Lee called a UK reporters phone from his hotel in Thailand on Saturday and stated: “I'm just devastated that I've done something so ‘stupid’. I'm sorry to all the Thai people that have been offended by it. I've been an idiot.” Only time will tell if Furlong uses the illness or idiot angle in his defense in the Thai courts of law. But what is for sure, is that justice is already taking place, for Thai prisons, as we all know, are no places for either humans or animals.

As much as Lee Furlong’s actions might infuriate some readers, the penalty has to match the crime. And the courts will hopefully account for the fact that the graffiti is now removed, and that not only is Lee ill, but the pair are cultural idiots, and that is not altogether their own faults. They are also victims of the current social condition, of which we are all part of the problem.

Top image: The graffiti at Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai Thailand. Source: Viral Press/ Youtube Screenshot

By Ashley Cowie



Gary Moran's picture

Yes, at least it was removed without (apparently) much damage. Be good if a strict penalty for that would dissuade others, but there is even graffiti inside the great pyramid. Bad enough that some things of historical significance are accidentaly damaged, but to do it deliberately is an affront to all of mankind in my belief. 

I totally agree. I can't see that he'd be doing such a thing, even if 'blind drunk', unless there was a basic lack of respect. What is this guy even getting so drunk for when he has such a condition? While in a foreign country? Honestly, I think he's only sorry because he realizes what the possible repercussions are now. These people think that somehow, once they travel, they automatically become some sort of dignitary who can do whatever they want. I'm so sick of hearing of stories like this. Thank goodness that the graffiti was able to be removed, but it never should have happened in the first place.

Gary Moran's picture

There’s two things here, a lack of respect, and the refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions. Those are disturbing trends in today’s society, witness the ‘affluence’ defense of a young American youth whose mother proposed that he should not be held responsible because his affluent upbringing did not teach him to be responsible for his actions. Worst thing is that the courts accepted that! 

To me, he/they richly deserve whatever punishment they are awarded. Regardless of any supposed disease, he’s apparently well enough to travel on his own – needs to be responsible for his actions.


ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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