Life & Leisure

American to avoid Thai jail for negative hotel reviews

Bangkok, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- A US citizen residing in Thailand will avoid a potential two-year prison sentence and fine for defamation over posting negative online reviews after reaching an agreement with the hotel.

Kitti Maleehuan, police superintendent on the island of Koh Chang in the gulf of Thailand, confirmed to EFE on Friday that the parties had reached an agreement and the complaint filed by the Sea View Koh Chang resort would be withdrawn, contingent on compensation actions to be carried out by the former guest.

American Wesley Barnes agreed to carry out a series of measures, such as apologizing to the hotel, to the provincial tourism authorities and to all media outlets that reported on the dispute, before Oct. 30, according to the agreement.

In addition, Barnes must provide an explanation to the United States embassy in Bangkok.

Barnes stayed at Sea View Koh Chang at the end of June and later left comments on TripAdvisor in which he criticized the establishment. The hotel later defended its workers and supplied its version of what happened.

In September, the American man was detained for two days until he posted bail of 100,000 baht ($3,200), with the obligation to appear before a judge to answer to the accusation, which carries a possible penalty of up to two years in prison and a 200,000 baht fine.

The hotel says the dispute arose when Barnes and a friend refused to pay a corkage fee to drink alcohol brought onto the premises, and which was eventually waived.

After his stay, Barnes in his reviews accused a resort manager of being “extremely rude and impolite to guests” and that he treated staff “like slaves.”

The resort said it had filed the complaint as a deterrent after they had repeatedly tried to contact Barnes, who “continued to persistently post negative and untrue reviews.”

Thailand’s tourism sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and its borders remain sealed shut to almost all tourists, relying heavily on domestic travelers for income. EFE-EPA


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