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US man faces prison in Thailand over negative online reviews of resort

US man faces prison in Thailand over negative online reviews of resort

Thailand’s strict anti-defamation laws mean an American man could spend up to two years in prison for posting negative reviews of a hotel online.

US man faces prison in Thailand over negative online reviews of resort

Wesley Barnes, who lives in Thailand, was arrested after posting several negative comments about the Sea View Koh Chang resort on the island of Koh Chang.

The New York Times reports Barnes was unhappy that the resort wanted to charge him a $15 corkage fee for bringing his own bottle of gin to the hotel’s restaurant.

After reportedly arguing with a manager, he posted a series of reviews of the resort on TripAdvisor and Google.

The resort filed a complaint with the Thai police under the country’s harsh anti-defamation law, leading to Barnes’ arrest.

He spent a weekend in jail and faces up to two years in prison if convicted of criminal defamation.

In Barnes reviews, it’s alleged he claimed to have interacted with “unfriendly staff” who “act like they don’t want anyone here”. One post allegedly said, “Avoid this place as if it was the Coronavirus!”

He also allegedly accused the hotel of “modern day slavery” in a post which was reportedly removed by TripAdvisor for violating its guidelines.

In a statement about the legal action, the hotel accused Barnes of leaving “fabricated stories on his reviews” that included “xenophobic connotations, accusations of slavery and even comments that could mislead readers to associate our property with the coronavirus”.

“Online reviews are very important to small businesses like ours and receiving up to four negative one-star reviews over a period of time can be extremely damaging, especially during these incredibly difficult times,” said the statement.

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