An American living in Thailand faces possible jail time and a fine after he was sued by an island resort for posting a negative review on travel and bookings website Tripadvisor Inc. Authorities said this weekend if the tourist was found guilty he may go to jail for as long as two years.
A lawsuit was filed against American Wesley Barnes by Thailand hotel Sea View Resort. Koh Chang authorities said the resort had filed the suit against Barnes after he had left an "unfair review" of the hotel on Tripadvisor's website.
The owners of the hotel claim Barnes's accusations had damaged the reputation of the resort. They also accused Barnes of quarreling with staff after he refused to pay a corkage fee for alcoholic drinks he had brought into the hotel.
International and domestic tourism in Thailand, including the resort island of Koh Chang, continues to be affected by the pandemic - leaving resorts struggling to stay afloat.
Barnes, who works in Thailand, was arrested by immigration police over the weekend. He was brought to Koh Chang, an island known for its sandy beaches and turquoise waters. According to authorities, Barnes was held briefly before being released on bail.
The Tripadvisor post was published by Barnes in July. He wrote the resort staff was very "unfriendly" and that the establishment acted like it didn't want visitors.
Unlike other countries, Thailand's defamation laws are stringent and violators often end up in prison for publicly shaming or criticizing others or establishments. The country has faced scrutiny from human rights and freedom of speech organizations who have argued the law is used by those in power and the wealthy to oppress free expression.
Earlier in the year, a local journalist was sentenced to two years in prison after he exposed in a tweet harsh working conditions at a chicken farm owned by conglomerate Thammakaset Co. Ltd.