A disgruntled American hotel guest who posted several bad TripAdvisor and other online reviews about a resort in Koh Chang, Thailand has been arrested by the police and spent several days in jail after the hotel filed a police complaint for defamation.
In what turned into a case of media mudslinging over the last few days, the resort which initially got a lot of flak defended itself saying that the defamation complaint was the last resort after American posted repeated ‘untrue’ reviews.
According to media reports the whole drama initially started as the guest brought outside alcohol into the hotels dining outlets which wasn’t permitted. It then resulted in a verbal row between the management and this particular individual who then posted bad reviews across several review boards.
After he didn’t respond to the hotels attempt to contact him, telling him to cease and desist the resorts management lodged a police complaint for defamation which is a very serious charge in Thailand and covered under the Computer Crime Act.
The American guest who works in Thailand as a teacher was arrested at his workplace and jailed for several days before being able to post 100,000 Baht (US$3,200) bail.
The Bangkok Post has an updated story about the entire saga (access here).
A Koh Chang resort has defended its decision to sue an American resident of Thailand for defamation over a negative review, saying it had tried in vain to negotiate with him but he continued to post comments that were completely untrue.
The Sea View Resort released a five-page statement on Saturday after news of its legal action against Wesley Barnes attracted widespread attention. The statement was posted on the Twitter account of Richard Barrow, a British expat travel blogger with 167,000 followers.
Under Thailand’s tough criminal defamation laws, Mr Barnes could face up to two years in prison if found guilty.
A recent visit to the resort on the island in Trat province landed Mr Barnes in trouble after he posted an unflattering review on Tripadvisor, one of the world’s most popular vacation review portals.
“The Sea View Resort owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the Tripadvisor website,” Pol Col Thanapon Taemsara of the Koh Chang police told AFP.
He said Mr 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 he had brought to the hotel.
Mr Barnes, who works in Thailand, was arrested by immigration police and returned to Koh Chang where he was detained in jail for two nights before being freed on bail. …
The Sea View Resort told AFP on Saturday that legal action was only taken because Mr Barnes had written multiple reviews on different sites over the past few weeks.
At least one 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 made “multiple attempts” to contact Mr Barnes but they were ignored, leading the business to resort to a legal complaint. …
“We agree that the defamation law may be viewed as excessive for this situation,” the resort said in its statement, but it said the guest had included “fabricated stories” in reviews posted on both Tripadvisor and Google. …
It’s one thing to post a constructive review that sticks to the facts, even if it involves negative aspects of the stay once this becomes defamatory in nature the whole matter reaches a level that can land you in very hot water especially in a country such as Thailand where people have indeed gone to prison for their online behavior.
Richard Barrow’s Twitter account as quoted in the article shows some documents showing the criminal complaint and a response by the resort:
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. Yes, you heard right [THREAD] pic.twitter.com/18YDRoWit1
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) September 26, 2020
UPDATE: There is always two sides to a story. The owners of the hotel who are suing an American guest for a bad review have now sent me their side of the story. You can download the five page statement here: https://t.co/ZsZSNM65kE pic.twitter.com/G4jfhWuZXI
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) September 26, 2020
The statements made and published by Mr. Barrow are just the involved parties own accounts. Who knows what part of this is true and since it’s an ongoing court case I’m not going to re-post the entire documents here, you can access them by following the links above.
TripAdvisor has currently locked their page for the Sea View Resort & Spa in Koh Chang to avoid a flood of retaliatory reviews by people who never stayed there. Up until now the reviews of this property are generally good.
While this reaction by the hotel does sound excessive I’d give them the benefit of the doubt that this guest behaved like a total idiot while at the property and then turned around with very unflattering descriptions and manufactured truths aka lies about this resort. He then refused to discuss the matter with the hotel and instead of stopping even accelerated his online badmouthing on channels other than TripAdvisor after the first bad review was “managed” away (deleted).
These little islands in Thailand are well known to be essentially run by the local mafia and a lot of people have met their fate at these islands after run in with the locals. In 2014 a British couple was killed on Koh Tao and the crime was later pinned on some illiterate Burmese migrant workers. The two Burmese were initially sentenced to death and just received a Royal pardon, reducing the sentence to life imprisonment.
I’m just noting this in the context of the situation at hand to show that one should consider his behavior and own security while on these islands.
Once you make a police complaint the handling of the case is up to the authorities so in what way they are arresting a suspect isn’t up to the complainant. The fact that he was picked up at his school and later spent several days in jail because he wasn’t able to come up with $3000 worth of bail money (who knows if he ever gets this back) shows he should probably just have paid the corkage fee and called it a day.
His days in Thailand are likely numbered irrespective of the outcome of this case which I don’t believe will be positive for him. This should serve as a warning for people to design their posts in a way that is way over the top when it comes to these review sites. These laws in Thailand and possibly some other countries as well can easily be used to take you down if so desired and charges are pressed.