File photo of a tourist place in Koh Chang, Thailand
A US man in Thailand arrested for posting a negative hotel review will avoid legal action and jail time.
Wesley Barnes had published several reviews allegedly accusing the Sea View Resort of “modern slavery”.
He was then arrested and charged under Thailand’s strict anti-defamation laws.
Police said Mr Barnes and the resort managed to reach an agreement that included an apology to the hotel and the Thai Tourism Authority.
He was also asked to send a statement to foreign media organizations that had previously written about his possible arrest at the time, including BBC News.
In it, Mr Barnes said that he apologized for his “repeated false and untrue statements … that were made to maliciously defame Sea View. These reviews were written out of anger and malice”.
The statement added that he regretted his actions and that “the hotel has forgiven me and agreed to withdraw the complaint”.
Colonel Kitti Maleehuan, superintendent of the Koh Chang Police Station – the island on which the resort is located – told AFP that the two parties met during a mediation session monitored by the police.
Mr Barnes also “has to give an explanation to the US embassy,” AFP said – although that was not specified.
The hotel had announced that it would withdraw its complaint against Mr Barnes if he met all of these conditions.
Before the mediation session, Mr Barnes told Reuters that he wanted to “end this case once and for all”.
If found guilty, he could have faced up to two years in prison.
“Fake, Recurring, and Malicious”
Mr. Barnes, who works in Thailand, stayed at Sea View Resort earlier this year.
He is said to have argued about him with employees who wanted to bring his own bottle of alcohol to the restaurant.
A hotel statement said he “caused a stir” and refused to pay a cork fee, which was eventually waived when the manager intervened.
Since leaving, Mr Barnes posted several negative reviews of the property, prompting the hotel to sued him for defamation.
Sea view Koh Chang
The hotel said the reviews were “false” and “defamatory”.
The hotel has claimed its reviews were “fictitious, repetitive and malicious” with a TripAdvisor review accusing the hotel of “modern day slavery.”
However, Mr Barnes had previously informed the BBC that this particular post would never be published because it was against TripAdvisor’s guidelines.
He also said he had already lost his job because of the incident and expressed concern that the advertising his case had received would make it difficult to find new employment.
The hotel told the BBC that after the reviews were published, it had received cancellations and requests for treatment from staff.
The Thai tourism sector has been hard hit by the aftermath of the global coronavirus pandemic.
“Receiving multiple false and defamatory reviews over a period of time can be extremely damaging, especially during these incredibly difficult times,” the hotel said.
They added that they tried repeatedly to contact Mr Barnes before filing the lawsuit.
“We chose to file a complaint to act as a deterrent, understanding that he will continue to write negative reviews week after week for the foreseeable future,” they said.
“Despite our multiple efforts to contact him to resolve the matter amicably for over a month, he completely ignored us. He did not respond to us until he was informed of our complaint by the authorities.”