American national faces jail in Thailand for posting negative hotel reviews

An American national is facing two years in jail in Thailand after posting negative reviews of a hotel he stayed in.

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

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

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,” AFP quoted the police.

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.

The hotel has alleged that his reviews were “fabricated, recurrent, and malicious”, with one post on TripAdvisor accusing the hotel of “modern day slavery”.

He said he lost his job over the incident and expressed worries that the publicity his case has received would make it harder to find new employment.

His next court appointment will be in early October. Mr Barnes added that he was afraid of going to prison given his first few days in detention had been very “scary”.

He still hopes to resolve the case with the hotel directly.

The hotel claims that after the reviews had been published, it had received cancellations and inquiries about employee treatment. The management says it had told Mr Barnes several times they would not go ahead with pressing charges if he stopped writing new “false” reviews.

“Receiving multiple false and defamatory reviews over a period can be extremely damaging, especially, during these incredibly difficult times,” the hotel said.