If you’ve ever gone online to leave a review for a hotel, airline, or restaurant, you probably didn’t think there’d be any repercussions — after all, that’s what online review platforms are for. In Thailand, however, it’s not that simple. An American guest who was unhappy with the service he received at a resort hotel was arrested and spent two days in jail for criminal defamation.
After Wesley Barnes, an American citizen who lives and works in Thailand, visited the Sea View Resort Koh Chang on the island of Koh Chang, he left negative reviews on TripAdvisor and Google that the hotel judged to be unfair. Unable to reach Barnes and stop him from posting negative reviews, they called the police and filed a complaint under the nation’s criminal defamation law.
Thailand’s defamation laws are very severe, in particular when it comes to online content. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend was arrested at his school for posting a one star review on Google maps about a resort he visited on Koh Chang. Yes, you heard right [THREAD] pic.twitter.com/18YDRoWit1
— Richard Barrow in Thailand 🇹🇭🇬🇧 (@RichardBarrow) September 26, 2020
According to the resort, Barnes was unduly damaging the reputation of the hotel. Colonel Thanapon Taemsara of Koh Chang police told AFP “The Sea View Resort owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the TripAdvisor website.”
The reviews were posted earlier this summer after Barnes visited the resort and had an argument with a member of the staff about a $15 corkage fee. Barnes had brought his own bottle of gin to the restaurant.
“We chose to file a complaint to serve as a deterrent,” the hotel said, “as we understood he may continue to write negative reviews week after week for the foreseeable future.”
Barnes faces a maximum fine of $6,300 and a two-year prison sentence.