Tourist trapped in Thailand risks two years in jail for negative resort criticism
He was arrested by the local authorities after leaving a bad review of the space.
It is quite possible that we have already gone through the experience: something goes so wrong in a stay that we want to express what we think of space is well expressed online. If that experience happens to you in Thailand, however, we advise some restraint. For your own good.
Wesley Barnes, an American in Thailand, is finding this out in the very worst way. After a written review for the Tripadvisor website, he was sued by the resort where he stayed. He spent two nights in jail, after which he went out on bail. But he now risks a trial that could be worth a two-year prison sentence.
In that Asian country, defamation laws are particularly heavy. More than fines, it can mean time behind bars. The case is even more serious when we talk about online criticism of the king of Thailand. In some cases, charges of crimes against the majesty have already been made, which can lead to sentences of up to 15 years in prison. Wesley Barnes only addressed his words in a negative critique of the place where he stayed. And a stay that was supposed to be heavenly quickly became hell.
It all started after a discussion with the manager of the Sea View Resort in Koh Chang. Wesley and a friend were returning to the accommodation with alcohol and were required to pay a fee. This resulted in a heated moment that seemed to be healed. Until you have followed up online.
To “The Guardian”, the American says that the manager was “aggressive” with them. Following the episode, Wesley wrote negative reviews on the Tripadvisor website, including one in which he accused the space of “modern slavery”, for the way the manager treated employees. This particular criticism has even been rejected by Tripadvisor for not meeting the site standards. Although there are other negative criticisms of the space on the same platform, the resort has advanced despite a lawsuit.
Sea View Resort argues that “honest reviews” are acceptable — “The problem is malicious defamation”. The episode happened last June and was worth two nights in jail to Wesley, who even worked in the country. The detainee was left without a passport and was therefore prevented from leaving Thailand. But the case is not yet over. Next Tuesday, October 6, he returns to court, now for his trial. Such a negative criticism can even be worth two years in jail and a fine of up to five thousand euros. Even if it is cleared, the attention that the case brought you has already cost you your job.
Human rights activists have accused Thailand of having draconian laws when it comes to defamation. Even if there are facts on the accused’s side, this may not be enough to avoid jail. The British newspaper recalls the case of journalist Suchanee Cloitre, sentenced to two years in prison for a tweet about a case involving working conditions at a farm in Thammakaset, a company in the livestock sector. A simple tweet about a lawsuit served as a jail sentence.