An American was arrested on Saturday for posting negative reviews on TripAdvisor of an island resort in Thailand. Wesley Barnes, who had recently stayed at the Sea View Resort in Koh Chang island, was sued by the resort owner for allegedly posting multiple "unfair" reviews on different online sites. If found guilty, Barnes could face up to two years in prison and a fine amounting to £4,900.
Barnes, who currently works in Thailand, was arrested by immigration police and briefly detained but was later freed on bail.
Colonel Thanapon Taemsara of the Koh Chang police said Barnes was accused by the resort owner of causing damage to the reputation of the hotel, as well as instigating quarrels with its staff over alcohol corkage fees.
In one of his reviews in July, Barnes posted:
"Unfriendly staff, no one ever smiles. They act like they don't want anyone there. The restaurant manager was the worst...There are other hotels with better-friendlier staff.'"
While in another post in June he wrote :
"Do not sleep here! Don't support modern day slavery of Thai people! The staff are unfriendly because of their management..."
TripAdvisor removed the post as it was in violation of its guidelines, the New Zealand Herald reports.
The barrage of negative reviews on the island resort prompted the owner to take legal action on Barnes saying they chose to file charges to serve as a deterrent after failed attempts to contact Barnes.
"Despite our multiple efforts to contact him to resolve this in an amicable way for well over a month, he chose to ignore use completely. He only replied to emails, messages on reviews sites, etc. once he had been notified of our complaint by authorities," the resort owner said.
The owner's five-page statement claims that Barnes fabricated stories on his reviews on TripAdvisor and Google which also involved xenophobic undertones, as well as accusations of slavery and misleading implications that associates their resort with the coronavirus.
The Thai government's existing anti-defamation laws have long been under scrutiny from press freedom and human rights advocates. The law is said to be a powerful weapon used and abused by big players to muzzle down free expression..