Thai hotel to drop charges against guest facing jail over bad reviews

US visitor was detained in September for posting ‘defamatory’ comments after corkage fee row

A US tourist who wrote a negative review about a hotel in Koh Chang (pictured) in Thailand was facing up to five years in jail for posting negative reviews. Image: iStock.

A US tourist who wrote a negative review about a hotel in Koh Chang (pictured) in Thailand was facing up to five years in jail for posting negative reviews. Image: iStock.

 

A hotel in Thailand has agreed to drop criminal charges against an American guest, who faces up to five years in jail for posting negative reviews, if he issues a public apology for his comments.

The hotel, on the holiday island of Koh Chang, filed a complaint against teacher Wesley Barnes in August after he posted what the hotel said were false and defamatory write-ups after a row over a 500 baht ($16) corkage fee.

Police detained Mr Barnes under criminal defamation and computer crime laws for two days in September before he was released on bail.

“Under conditions that Mr Barnes shows his sincerity and takes full responsibility for what had happened and remedy the situation, the hotel will be delighted to drop the charge,” the Sea View Koh Chang hotel said in a statement.

The case brought new scrutiny to Thailand’s defamation and computer crime laws, which rights activists say are too harsh and sweeping.

Under the laws, Mr Barnes could be fined up to 100,000 baht ($3,200) and be jailed for up to five years.

The hotel wants Mr Barnes to send statements to media, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the US Embassy and the Tripadvisor website this month, apologising and explaining that his poor reviews were written in anger.

The hotel said Mr Barnes had agreed. He told Reuters he would be issuing a statement.

“I’m sending an email to many media outlets,” Mr Barnes said. However, he declined to elaborate.- Reuters