Thai hotel offers to drop lawsuit against complaining guest
Posted October 9, 2020 10:34 a.m. EDT
BANGKOK — A hotel in Thailand that filed a criminal defamation suit against a guest who posted negative reviews about it online said Friday it will drop the complaint if he makes apologies and other gestures to restore its reputation.
The lawsuit filed last month by the Sea View Koh Chang Hotel could result in up to seven years in prison for American Wesley Barnes, who teaches English in Thailand, if he is found guilty of defamation and violation of the Computer Crime Act by posting false information online. He spent two nights in jail after he was arrested before being granted bail.
The hotel was also criticized for taking such harsh action. The Sea View said it was necessary to protect its reputation and that Barnes had failed to respond to its demands that he retract his reviews on travel websites.
The hotel said in a statement emailed Friday that it “would be pleased to conclude the complaint under conditions that Mr. Barnes shows his sincerity and takes full responsibility for what had happened and remedy the situation.”
Barnes did not reply to an emailed request for comment about the settlement offer, which the hotel said came after he requested mediation. The American said last month he had been trying to reach out to the hotel to resolve the issue.
Thai media reported that Barnes offered a formal apology at a mediation session on Thursday and agreed to the hotel’s terms.
According to the hotel on Koh Chang, an island about 300 kilometers (185 miles) southeast of Bangkok, the dispute began when Barnes and a friend brought an alcoholic beverage to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant on June 27. When they were told there was a 500 baht ($16) corkage fee, they complained, and after some negotiation with the food and beverage director were allowed to pour from their own bottle without paying extra.
Barnes’ version was broadly similar, but added that afterward he saw the food and beverage director, whom he called the restaurant manager, treat a Thai employee abusively, and that was why he decided to post his critical reviews.
“Do not sleep here! Don’t support modern day slavery of Thai people!” began the most strident review. It singled out the restaurant manager as being “really bad.” Later postings were similar in tone.
The hotel said it is seeking a sincere apology from Barnes to the hotel and staff, a statement to Thai and international media including an admission that his reviews were untrue, an apology letter to Thailand’s tourism promotion board for damaging the industry, which has nosedived this year because of the coronavirus, an explanation of the affair to the U.S. Embassy, and clarification to the travel website Tripadvisor, where Barnes posted a review, about the circumstances leading to the problem.