American man may face Thai prison sentence following negative hotel reviews
It’s trouble in paradise.
One man might be jailed over bad reviews of a Thailand hotel, possibly facing up to two years behind bars for the critique.
Wesley Barnes is being sued by Sea View Resort after penning a negative post with a one-star review on Tripadvisor, the AFP reported on Saturday. The Koh Chang island hotel claims that the American man has written multiple reviews across different sites, denouncing its business.
“The staff was not friendly. Nobody could smile,” a Tripadvisor review by Barnes reportedly said, according to a screenshot travel blogger Richard Barrow tweeted on Saturday. “The restaurant manager was very rude and full of himself. He is from the Czech Republic. There are other hotels with better-friendlier staff. Avoid this place as if it was the coronavirus!”
Colonel Thanapon Taemsara of the Koh Chang police confirmed that the hotel would be pressing charges, with Barnes accused of damaging Sea View’s reputation and arguing with staff about not wanting to pay a corkage fee for alcohol he brought to the resort.
“The Sea View Resort owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the Tripadvisor website,” Taemsara told the AFP.
Officials for Sea View say that they are suing Barnes because he has slammed the resort on multiple websites in recent weeks. In June, the man allegedly accused the resort of “modern day slavery,” which was soon removed from Tripadvisor for violating the travel website’s guidelines.
The critic was taken into custody and brought back to Koh Chang, where he was briefly detained and freed on bail, AFP said.
Thailand’s infamous anti-defamation laws have long drawn the ire of human rights groups; if Barnes is sentenced, he could be sent to two years in prison and fined about $6,315 (200,000 baht).
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Tripadvisor told Fox News the travel company is investigating the incident and shared the following statement:
“In general, Tripadvisor is opposed to the idea that a traveler can be prosecuted for expressing opinion,” the rep explained. “Tripadvisor was created on the premise that consumers have the right to write about their first hand traveling or dining experiences – good or bad – as those reviews are one of the most powerful ways to enable others to find all that is good out there in this world. Travelers benefit from the transparency from the hundreds of millions of candid reviews provided on our platform.”
“Similarly, the platform allows hoteliers and other travel-related businesses to reply to criticism and engage travelers in what we hope are meaningful and positive dialogues,” the spokesperson continued. “We continue to support our users’ right to give honest, positive or negative, constructive feedback to the millions of business on our site.”