(THE NEW PAPER) - They had just been caught shoplifting in Bangkok, yet fooled around and smiled for their mugshots.
The photographs of the two Singaporean girls went viral after they were uploaded on social media, with netizens in both Thailand and Singapore slamming them for their behaviour.
The girls, both 18 at the time, were caught after they stole two spaghetti-strap tops from a shop at the Platinum Fashion Mall in Thailand on June 16.
Their personal details were later posted online.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, one of them, Miss Low Yu Min, who turned 19 yesterday, said she wanted to take responsibility for her actions and apologise to both Singaporeans and Thais.
"It was so stupid of us to do what we did, and we truly feel remorseful for appearing as if we didn't treat the situation seriously," she said.
"We are so sorry for the trouble that we have caused, and more importantly, I would like to say sorry to all the people who have shown care and concern for us.
"We are sorry for letting you down."
Caught by 1,000-strong Line group
Shop owner: we told them it wasn't fun and games
They were caught on closed circuit television (CCTV) stealing two pieces of clothing from an unattended shop in a Bangkok shopping centre.
The two girls, who had left the Platinum Fashion Mall by the time the theft was discovered, were later apprehended at another mall.
A shop owner at Platinum, who wanted to be known only as Mr Thom, 48, told The New Paper yesterday how the two Singaporean teenagers were tracked down.
Speaking in Thai, he said he was alerted to the theft from a shop called My Faiday after its attendant returned from the toilet.
Since the girls had left, they took pictures of the footage and sent them to various group chats on instant messaging app Line.
The groups included about 1,000 shop owners in Bangkok's shopping malls, including Platinum and Mahboonkrong (MBK).
Soon after, shop owners at MBK, about 1.9km from Platinum, told the group the girls had been spotted there.
Security at MBK caught the 18-year-olds, who were with two Singaporean men and called the police.
Mr Thom, who had gone to MBK with the My Faiday sales attendant, said: "They denied stealing until we searched through their bags and found the items. Then they confessed."
After they agreed to settle the case without being arrested by the police, the Singaporeans were taken back to Platinum.
"They are young. We didn't want to create trouble for them," said Mr Thom.
Back at Platinum, they and other shop owners discussed compensation with the girls.
But what struck them as odd was how the culprits were smiling throughout, even while their "mugshots" were being taken to be posted on a "wall of shame" featuring shoplifters banned from the mall.
"They looked like they were just having fun, happily taking photos all the way."
Mr Thom added: "We told them that it was a serious matter and it wasn't fun and games."
He said they did not show any remorse.
"No sorry, no sadness. Until today, they haven't said sorry to us, (not even) on social media."
They finally agreed that the girls pay 5,000 baht (S$190) for the entire stock of spaghetti-strap tops they had stolen.
Mr Thom said it was common for shopkeepers to negotiate such deals with shoplifters. If they could not pay, then the police would be called in.
The shopkeepers later decided to post pictures of the shoplifters on Facebook "to inform Singaporeans" of the incident.
Mr Thom said: "We decided that Auk (Ms Auk Thanima), one of the administrators of the Line group who was present throughout the incident, should be the one to post the pictures on Facebook.
"Singaporeans are very nice in the eyes of the Thai people. They should be informed of what happened."
Though her post has since been taken down by Facebook, another Facebook group, Wake Up Singapore, has posted screen shots of it. Several news media, including Channel 8 News and citizen journalism website Stomp, have reported the incident.
The co-owner of My Faiday, who wanted to be known only as Mr Taey, 34, who was not present during the incident, said shoplifting cases were common in the mall.
About 10 to 20 of "banned" posters are on the notice board at any one time.
Under Thai law, shoplifters face up to three years' jail or a fine of 6,000 baht.
Miss Low described how they and two male friends had gone to Thailand for a one-week holiday last week, and spent a day shopping at Platinum.
They had split up, with the girls wandering off to shop together.
"We walked past the shop about noon and saw that it was closed with a bamboo pole laid across the storefront," she said.
The shop attendant of My Faiday had gone to the toilet.
On impulse, the girls decided to steal the tops.
"We were not thinking straight at the time. It was a silly thing to do," said Miss Low.
"I really regret what we did, and I can't say sorry enough."
They then met their friends and went to Mahboonkrong (MBK), another mall about 1.9km away.
About two hours later, they were approached by My Faiday's shop attendant and her friend at MBK.
The friend, who owns a shop at Platinum, told TNP yesterday that they had sent out pictures of the girls from closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage to Line chat groups with about 1,000 retailers in Bangkok.
They then received an alert that the girls had been seen at MBK.
Miss Low said they were shown the CCTV footage and had their bags checked.
"We didn't understand what was going on because of the language barrier, but we were scared and knew we were in trouble," said Miss Low.
"A group, including some people who seemed to be the police, came later. But after discussing among themselves, they left."
Then, the shop attendant and her friend told the girls to follow them back to Platinum.
They took a taxi to Platinum where they were taken to the security office. The girls were told to hand over their passports, or face being reported to the police.
Afraid they would be locked up without bail, the girls complied.
"We were very scared and confused because we didn't know what would happen to us," Miss Low said.
"There was no one we could properly communicate with to express how we felt."
She said the security guard handling the case was light-hearted and casual about the incident.
"Throughout the whole process, we were actually very solemn and tense, so the security guard tried to lighten the mood, where we were captured smiling," said Miss Low.
"We also spoke to the security guard and the shop attendant's friend in broken Mandarin, and asked them to translate our apologies to the attendant, but she would have none of it."
They were then told by the guard to pay 5,000 baht (S$190) to buy the entire stock of nine identical pieces of the spaghetti-strap top they stole, and cover the attendant's transport costs which she claimed to be 1,000 baht.
But the girls had less than 4,000 baht on them, and had to ask their friends to come over from MBK to help with the remaining amount.
"It was only after we settled everything and agreed to close the case that we decided to take pictures with the clothes," said Miss Low.
"On hindsight, it was completely wrong of us to make light of the situation."
The parties involved also agreed to close the case, and keep their personal details confidential, Miss Low said.
But the next day, Facebook user Auk Thanima posted details of the girls on her account.
When Miss Low and her friend discovered they had been publicly shamed, they broke down and cried.
She said: "We spent the next few days feeling so ashamed of what we did.
"I sincerely apologise for the incident, and I've learnt my lesson. I will work to be a better person in future, and will never do such a thing again."