A US man is facing two years of imprisonment in Thailand after posting a negative review of the hotel he was staying in.
He was sued at the resort under the country’s strict anti-defamation laws.
Wesley Barnes, who works in Thailand, posted several reviews on various platforms, allegedly accusing him of “modern-day slavery”.
However, Sea View Resort said that the harsh criticism made by the former guest was untrue and was damaging the hotel’s reputation.
Police told the news agency AFF, “The owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted inappropriate reviews at his hotel on the TripAdvisor website.”
The incident at a resort on Koh Chang Island earlier this year apparently sparked Mr Barnes’ argument that he wanted to bring his wine bottle while dining at the restaurant.
A hotel statement said he “created a ruckus” and refused to pay a cork fee – which was eventually waived when the manager intervened.
Since leaving, Mr. Barnes has posted several negative reviews of the property, following which the hotel filed a defamation suit against him.
Mr. Barnes was later detained, spent several nights in jail and then released on bail.
If convicted of breaking the country’s notorious anti-defamation laws, he could face up to two years in prison.
TripAdvisor was posted to at least one review in June accusing the hotel of “modern day slavery” – which the site later removed for violating its guidelines.
“We decided to file a complaint to serve as a deterrent, because he understood that he could write a negative review week after week for the future,” the hotel said. Stating that he had tried to contact the former guest before filing a defamation suit. .
The hotel also acknowledged that “using defamation law can be seen as excessive for this situation,” but said the guest had ignored all attempts to contact “and instead continued to post negative and untrue reviews Kept “.
‘A law is unusually easy to misuse’
Jonathan Head, BBC South East Asia correspondent, Thailand
Thailand is not unique in the criminalization of defamation, but the law, which carries a prison sentence of up to two years, is unusually easy to misuse. I was put on a criminal defamation trial in 2016 for a report made for the BBC. The plaintiff dropped the case after 18 months.
Plaintiffs do not need to get the police or prosecutor to file a criminal complaint – they can file directly in court, and courts rarely reject them. So any person subject to such a complaint almost becomes a criminal criminal, summoned to court to defend himself, or subject to arrest if not.
Defendants must post bail, and if someone is a foreigner, the court will have their passports and cases often last several years. Unless they file a separate civil case, they cannot bear the substantial costs of defending such cases even if they win. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, are not liable to pay the costs even if they lose.
It gets worse. Truth is not an automatic defense in Thailand as it is in many countries. So even if what you have said, or reported, is true, and the plaintiff accepts that it is true, you can still go to jail, unless you can prove that the public in reporting it Interest It is also very difficult to find a reliable and affordable lawyer.
Unfortunately, criminal defamation cases are often used in commercial or political disputes. Rights groups allege that they are often abused to silence those fighting persecution and injustice. A poultry processing company has filed as many as 38 legal cases, many of them against criminal defamation, workers and human rights campaigners who complained about labor abuses. A journalist has already received a two-year prison sentence for social media comments about the case.