The American man living in Thailand was unhappy with the existence of a hotel and resort He wanted to charge him a corkage $ 15 to bring his bottle of gin to the restaurant. He argued with a manager and then did what became second nature to disgruntled tourists: He posted negative reviews of the resort online.
The hotel, Sea View Koh Chang Resort on the island of Koh Chang, was equally dissatisfied with the guest and what he saw as his singular campaign to damage his reputation. Unable to access him or stop his posts on TripAdvisor, the resort has filed a complaint with Thai police under the country’s strict defamation law.
As a result, guest Wesley Barnes was arrested this month and spent the weekend in prison. If convicted of criminal defamation, he faces up to two years in prison.
If Sea View is hoping to regain its good name, asking the police for help backfires badly. Barnes’ arrest sparked online condemnation, negative news stories and the resort’s backlash. A hotel manager said the resort was receiving death threats from foreigners.
“I’m not sure why the geniuses in charge here think that locking someone for” damaging their reputation “with a poorly deserved review will help improve their reputation,” read a comment on Google posted on Monday by someone calling himself the Wholesome Bot.
Detention under defamation law is also a bad look for Thailand, which is scrambling to rebuild the tourism industry crippled by the coronavirus. One of its strategies is to encourage people who live in Thailand to travel within the country.
Thailand is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world and tourism is a major part of its economy. But to contain the virus, the government banned all foreign travelers in April and is now trying to find ways to safely reopen the country.
Human rights advocates have long criticized Thailand’s defamation law, which can lead to criminal charges for speaking out, and at times it is used by business interests to silence critics.
In last year’s case, a Lopoori County court found journalist Sushani Kloetri, Guilty of defamation For his tweet in 2016 criticizing the business practices of Thomacacet, the poultry farm operator. Ms. Soochani, a TV reporter, was sentenced to two years in prison. It is attractive. The case was one of more than ten cases the company filed against journalists, workers and activists.
Even more stringent is the country’s insulting royal self law, which can lead to a 15-year prison sentence for insulting the King of Thailand. The protesters who were Organize demonstrations against the king In recent weeks she risks being prosecuted under this law.
Koh Chang’s controversy was revealed by popular travel blogger Richard Barrow, in Twitter posts. After Mr. Barrow reported the arrest, Sea View and Mr. Barnes sent him statements containing their own accounts of what happened, which Mr. Barrow also published.
Mr. Barnes said he was “shocked” by the cork fees during his June stay and complained to the valet. One manager intervened, and after a discussion in which they both showed a “position”, Mr. Barnes conceded, the manager waived the fee.
Mr. Barnes said he later saw the same manager chewing an employee and concluded that “the master / slave mentality continues.” Decide at that point to write a review.
As it turns out, not only did he post one review, but also many reviews posted on TripAdvisor and Google giving the hotel the lowest possible rating and additional criticism of the management. One of the posts angered the resort by saying, “Avoid this place looking like Coronavirus!”
After his arrest, Mr. Barnes said, police sent him back to Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand, about one hour southeast of Bangkok. By the time he arrived on September 12, Saturday, it was too late for him to pay bail and spent two nights in jail before being released the following Monday.
The Sea View said, in its statement, that it had contacted Mr. Barnes to try to resolve the situation amicably but had not received a response. The hotel said it only went to the police as a last resort to stem the flow of bad comments.
The hotel acknowledged that “we agree that the use of defamation law may be perceived as excessive in this position.” “However, the guest refused to respond to our attempts to communicate, and instead kept posting negative and incorrect comments about our actions.”
The statement continued: “We simply want to ensure that these incorrect reviews are stopped, and we did not have any means to negotiate the matter with the guest until after we submitted the complaint to the authorities.”