A recent visit to the Sea View Resort on the island in Trat province landed Wesley Barnes in trouble after he wrote unflattering reviews about his holiday on Tripadvisor, one of the world’s most popular vacation review portals, Bangkok Post reports.
“The Sea View Resort owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the Tripadvisor website,” Col Thanapon Taemsara of the Koh Chang police told AFP.
He said Mr Barnes was accused of causing “damage to the reputation of the hotel”, and of quarrelling with staff over not paying a corkage fee for alcohol he had brought to the hotel.
Mr Barnes, who works in Thailand, was arrested by immigration police and returned to Koh Chang where he was briefly detained and then freed on bail.
According to the Tripadvisor review Mr Barnes posted in July, he encountered “unfriendly staff” who “act like they don’t want anyone here”.
Mr Barnes and the Sea View Resort did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Sea View, a 156-room resort on Kai Bae Beach was founded in 1989 and is ranked 10th out of 85 properties on Koh Chang that have been reviewed on TripAdvisor. It has received 1,922 reviews, with 1,090 of them rating the resort excellent, 580 very good, 170 average, 48 poor and 32 terrible.
Defamation laws in Thailand have long been seen as problematic, as they are frequently used by businesses and influential figures to intimidate critics.
The maximum sentence under the law is two years in prison, along with a 200,000-baht fine.
One example that stands out in Thailand involves the Lop Buri poultry farm Thammakaset Co Ltd, a supplier to the agribusiness giant Betagro. A complaint filed in 2016 with the National Human Rights Commission alleged that migrant workers at the farm were forced to work up to 20 hours a day, were paid less than the minimum wage and had their identity documents confiscated.
The Department of Labour Protection and Welfare in August 2016 ordered Thammakaset to pay the workers 1.7 million baht in compensation and damages, but the money was not handed over until 2019.
The retribution has been incessant. Thammakaset over the past four years has filed 39 criminal and civil complaints against 22 individuals including migrant workers, journalists, human rights defenders and one media company.
In December 2019, a court in Lop Buri sentenced Suchanee Cloitre, then working for Voice TV, to two years in prison for criminal libel for a comment she tweeted about the grievances against the company. She is free on bail pending an appeal.
Her conviction stemmed from her use of the words “slave labour” in a report on the compensation order.