A man was accused of defamation in Thailand for leaving negative reviews online about a hotel. The traveler, of American nationality, compared the management at the hotel to “modern slavery” and was prosecuted, facing up to two years in prison.
Wesley Barnes, who lives and worked in Thailand, visited Sea View Resort in the city of Koh Chang in June. To The Guardian, Barnes says he discussed with staff, who wanted the American and his friend to pay a fee for the alcohol they took to the resort.
The tourist told the British newspaper that the hotel manager was “aggressive” and decided to write negative reviews on platforms online. In one of the assessments, Barnes said that elements of the staff they were treated “like slaves”. TripAdvisor, the platform where Barnes tried to write the review, did not allow it to be published for “not meeting the guidelines of the reviews”, but Barnes maintains the harsh characterization of the resort.
Published or not, the hotel did not like Wesley Barnes’ attitude and, after saying that he tried to clarify the matter with the American traveler (without success), he denied what happened and made the decision to sue him.
“We have no problem with honest reviews. As can be seen, several negative reviews are still published. Malicious defamations are a problem. We decided to file this complaint to deter, as we understand that he [Barnes] you can continue to write reviews week after week in the near future, ”the hotel said in a statement.
Barnes spent two nights in jail and was released after paying security. But this may not be the only incarceration for the American, who reports that he lost his job in Thailand due to history and fears he will be arrested again. His passport has since been detained by the authorities.
Legal action by the Sea View Resort comes at a time when the Thai tourism industry is trying to recover from the devastating crisis in the sector, caused by the pandemic. This is, in fact, one of the arguments used by the hotel, which says that the uproar surrounding history “damaged the hotel’s reputation”.
Thai authorities take defamation charges very seriously. Defamation laws are widely criticized by human rights activists, who accuse the Thai government of using the law to silence journalists, in line with the growing pro-democracy and anti-monarchist sentiment in the country. Last year, a journalist was sentenced to two years in prison for writing a tweet criticizing working conditions on a farm.