Tourist faces jail in Thailand over hotel review

Thailand's tourist industry is struggling due to the pandemic
Thailand's tourist industry is struggling due to the pandemic

A US man is facing up to two years in jail in Thailand after posting negative reviews of a hotel he stayed in.

He was sued by the resort under the country’s strict anti-defamation laws.

Wesley Barnes, who works in Thailand, posted several reviews on different platforms allegedly accusing the resort of “modern day slavery”.

The Sea View Resort, however, said the harsh criticism by the former guest was untrue and damaging to the hotel’s reputation.

“The owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the TripAdvisor website,” police told the AFP news agency.

The incident, which occurred at the resort on the island of Koh Chang earlier this year, was apparently triggered by an argument over Mr Barnes wanting to bring his own bottle of alcohol while dining in the restaurant.

A hotel statement said he had “caused a commotion” and refused to pay a corkage fee – which was eventually waived off when the manager intervened.

Since leaving, Mr Barnes posted several negative reviews of the property, after which the hotel sued him for defamation.

Mr Barnes was subsequently detained, spent several nights in prison, and then released on bail.

If found guilty of breaking the country’s notorious anti-defamation laws he could face up to two years in prison.

At least one review was posted in June on TripAdvisor accusing the hotel of “modern day slavery” – which the site later removed for violating its guidelines.

“We chose to file a complaint to serve as a deterrent, as we understood he may continue to write negative reviews week after week for the foreseeable future,” the hotel said, explaining it had attempted to contact the former guest before filing the defamation suit.

The hotel also acknowledged that “using a defamation law may be viewed as excessive for this situation,” but said the guest had ignored all attempts to make contact “and instead continued to persistently post negative and untrue reviews”.