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.
- 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:
SECOND UPDATE: Wesley B, the American who is being sued by a resort on Koh Chang for leaving a one star review has now sent me his response to the statement sent to me by the hotel #Thailand pic.twitter.com/hw1dsEzJWp
— Richard Barrow in Thailand 🇹🇭🇬🇧 (@RichardBarrow) September 26, 2020
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)