American man avoids jail in Thailand for bad station exam

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Legend
File photo of a tourist resort in Koh Chang, Thailand


An American in Thailand who was arrested for writing a negative hotel review will avoid prosecution and jail time.

Wesley Barnes had published several reviews accusing the Sea View Resort of “modern slavery”.

He was then detained and charged under Thailand’s strict anti-defamation laws.

Police said Mr Barnes and the resort were successful in reaching a deal, which included an apology to the hotel and the Thai tourism authority.

Colonel Kitti Maleehuan, superintendent of the Koh Chang police station – the island where the complex is located – told AFP news agency that the two sides met in a mediation session overseen by the police.

Mr. Barnes will also have to provide “an explanation to the US Embassy,” AFP said – without specifying.

The hotel said it would withdraw its complaint against Mr Barnes if it met all of these conditions.

Before the mediation session, Barnes told Reuters news agency that he wanted “to end this case once and for all”.

If found guilty he could have faced up to two years in prison.

‘Manufactured, recurring and malicious’

Mr Barnes, who works in Thailand, had stayed at the Sea View resort earlier this year.

He is said to have argued with the staff about him wanting to bring his own bottle of alcohol while dining at the restaurant.

A statement from the hotel said it had “caused a stir” and refused to pay a traffic jam charge which was ultimately waived when the manager intervened.

Since leaving, Mr. Barnes has posted several negative reviews of the property, after which the hotel sued him for libel.

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Koh Chang sea view

Legend

The hotel said the reviews were “false” and “defamatory”


The hotel alleged its reviews were “fabricated, recurring and malicious”, with a post on TripAdvisor accusing the hotel of “modern slavery”.

Mr Barnes, however, previously told the BBC that this article was never published because it violated TripAdvisor guidelines.

He also said he had already lost his job as a result of the incident and expressed fears that the publicity his case had received would make it more difficult to find a new job.

The hotel told the BBC that after the reviews were published it received cancellations and inquiries about the treatment of employees.

Thailand’s tourism sector has been hit hard by the fallout from 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 statement read.

They added that they made several attempts to contact Mr Barnes before filing a complaint.

“We chose to file a complaint to have a deterrent effect because we understood that he could continue to write negative reviews week after week for the foreseeable future,” they said.

“Despite our multiple efforts to contact him to resolve the issue amicably for over a month, he chose to ignore us completely. He only responded to us when he was informed of our complaint by the authorities. “

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