English Teacher in Thailand Faces 2 Years in Jail Over Negative Reviews of Resort

Resort

Thailand’s strict defamation laws may land an American man in prison for posting derogatory online reviews against a local resort. 

The case: Wesley Barnes, an English teacher in Thailand, wrote on different platforms to criticize the owner and staff members of the Sea View Resort, Associated Press reported.

  • Barnes wrote his first TripAdvisor review of the Sea View Koh Chang Resort in June this year, accusing the resort of “modern day slavery.”
  • The site eventually removed the review because it violated its guidelines.

  • He wrote another review of the resort a few days later, specifically calling out the restaurant manager as “the worst” and “from the Czech Republic.”

  • He posted a similar review on Google Maps, but this time, he added: “Avoid this place as if it was the Coronavirus.” 
  • In response, the resort filed a case against him for allegedly damaging its reputation.
  • “Despite our multiple efforts to contact him to resolve the matter in an amicable way for well over a month, he chose to ignore us completely,” the hotel said in a statement to the BBC. “He only replied to us when he had been notified of our complaint by the authorities.”

How it started: According to the resort’s management, Barnes’ negative reviews started when he was asked to pay a corkage fee (500 baht or $16) for bringing his own bottle of alcohol while dining in the restaurant.

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  • Barnes allegedly “caused a commotion,” refusing to pay the fee, until the restaurant manager stepped in and didn’t charge him.
  • After the incident, Barnes posted the negative reviews which the hotel deemed to be “fabricated, recurrent, and malicious.”
  • Barnes was booked and detained in a prison in Koh Chang for two days before he was released on a 100,000 baht ($3,160) bail.
  • He will return to court on Oct. 6, and if he is found guilty, he could be jailed for two years.
  • Explaining his side of the story, Barnes sent a lengthy statement to British blogger Richard Barrow:

Previous criminal records: The English teacher, who said he lost his job over the incident, was previously jailed in a state prison in Kansas, according to Conandaily

  • In 2004, he was imprisoned “after driving under influence of alcohol or drugs.”
  • In 2017, the same man was reportedly charged “with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal action.”

Featured Image via Kansas City Police Department (left), Screenshot via Marc Burden (right)

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