An American working in Thailand, Wesley Barnes, was arrested at his job and jailed over a defamation lawsuit filed by the owner of the Sea View Resort & Spa, Kah Change in response to a negative TripAdvisor review.
The man posted a one star review in July and two months later he was picked up by Thai police. It was a Friday and he “ended up spending a couple of nights in jail” before bring able to post 100,000 Baht (~ US$3165) bail. He faces up to two years in prison if convicted.
Here’s what the man actually wrote,
The staff was not friendly. Nobody could smile. The restaurant manager was very rude and full of himself. He is from the Czech republic. There are other hotels with better-friendlier staff. Avoid this place as if it was the Coronavirus!
Here’s the review and the legal charge:
According to the resort’s response to the review, this was their second post (the first one being deleted by the site). According to the owner, Mr. Barnes brought his own bottle of liquor to dinner and refused to pay the hotel’s corkage fee (500 THB) and “used abusive language” towards the server. The restaurant waived the fee.
Credit: Sea View Resort
In Thailand expressing a negative opinion online about an incident like this can lead to legal jeopardy. Although this isn’t unique to Thailand. Many countries have laws that aren’t friendly to critical expression. We’ve seen lawsuits in Canada, Europe and even the United States – though in the U.S. at least truth is a defense. Here in the States, always be careful that your reviews are factually accurate (at least in your reasonable subjective belief) and express opinion – don’t make false claims of fact.
It seems to me that’s the biggest reason of all not to stay at Sea View Resort & Spa – the owner has shown a predispositon to file charges over your comments about the property. If you visit Koh Chang, about 10 miles from the Trat airport which has Bangkok Airways service from Suvarnabhumi airport, consider staying somewhere else.
And that’s the biggest reason, perhaps, that a hotel owner shouldn’t sue over a negative review: the Streisand Effect. It’s only going to further publicize the negative review of the property.
(HT: Kalil D.)