Americans to avoid jail due to negative TripAdvisor rating of Thai hotel

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Wesley Barnes wrote about meeting “unfriendly staff” at Sea View.

Bangkok, Thailand:

An American expat in Thailand will avoid legal action and potential jail time for posting a negative TripAdvisor hotel review after reaching an agreement with the resort that is suing him, police said Thursday.

Wesley Barnes wrote of meeting “unfriendly staff” who “pretended not to want anyone” in June after staying at Sea View on Koh Chang, famous for its sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

In another review, dropped by the website for violating its policies, it accused the hotel of “modern slavery.”

The resort later sued Barnes and he spent two days in custody after being arrested and charged under Thailand’s strict libel laws.

The maximum sentence is two years in prison, along with a fine of 200,000 baht (US $ 6,300).

Barnes and the resort reached an agreement on Thursday after a police-overseen mediation session, said Colonel Kitti Maleehuan, superintendent of Koh Chang Police Station.

Barnes “agreed to follow the hotel’s suggestions,” said Maleehuan, apologizing to the hotel and its staff.

The American who works in Thailand must also apologize to the Kingdom’s tourism authority and give an explanation to the US embassy.

If he complies with the settlement terms, the hotel said it would withdraw the complaint.

AFP has approached Barnes for comment.

Domestic tourism is still happening in Thailand, where coronavirus numbers are relatively low – 3,622 cases and only 59 deaths.

Many locals and expats are making the most of the tourism slump to enjoy near-empty resorts.

Thailand’s infamous anti-defamation laws have long been scrutinized by human rights and press freedom groups, which have suggested that powerful gamblers are using them as a weapon to stifle free speech.

Earlier this year, a Thai journalist was sentenced to two years in prison for posting a tweet referring to a dispute over working conditions at a Thammakaset chicken farm.

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