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June 13, 2021
PHOTO CREDITS: DAILY NEWS
An American could face prison after giving a bad TripAdvisor review to an island resort in Thailand, according to CBS News.
The resort sued Wesley Barnes and he could face up to two years in prison if found guilty. According to the Tripadvisor review Barnes posted in July, he encountered “unfriendly staff” who “act like they don’t want anyone here.”
Domestic tourism is still happening in Thailand, where coronavirus numbers are relatively low, with locals and expats heading to near-empty resorts. Among these resorts is Sea View Resort located on Koh Chang Island, known for its sandy beaches and turquoise waters. “The Sea View Resort owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the Tripadvisor website,” Colonel Thanapon Taemsara of Koh Chang police told AFP. He said Barnes was accused of causing “damage to the reputation of the hotel”, and of quarrelling with staff over not paying a corkage fee for alcohol brought to the hotel. Barnes, who works in Thailand, was arrested by immigration police and returned to Koh Chang where he was briefly detained and then freed on bail.
The Sea View Resort said legal action was only taken because Barnes had penned multiple reviews on different sites over the past few weeks. The resort’s statement was posted on Twitter by Richard Barrow, a travel blogger with more than 167,000 followers. “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.”
At least one review was posted in June on Tripadvisor accusing the hotel of “modern day slavery,” which the site removed after a week for violating its guidelines. “We chose to file a complaint to serve as a deterrent, as we understood he may continue to write negative reviews week after week for the foreseeable future,” the hotel said, adding that staff had attempted to contact Barnes before filing the complaint. Thailand’s notorious anti-defamation laws have long drawn scrutiny from human rights and press freedom groups, who say powerful players use it as a weapon to stifle free expression.
ARTICLE: CONNOR KMIECIK