Thailand's Sea View Koh Chang resort says it will drop the criminal defamation suit it filed against an American guest, as long as he apologizes for the negative reviews and makes amends.
Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that the hotel, located on the island of Koh Chang, emailed them a statement saying they “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.”
Last month, Wesley Barnes, a U.S. citizen who lives in the Asian country, posted a series of Tripadvisor reviews slamming the Sea View Koh Chang resort, prompting the hotel to take legal action against him. The resort issued a complaint to local police citing Thailand's defamation laws.
Barnes was taken into custody and stayed behind bars for a weekend as he was booked on a Saturday and couldn't post bail until that Monday.
According to The New York Times, Barnes publicly apologized on Friday for his online reviews of the Sea View Koh Chang.
"All of the statements that I made are completely untrue,” his apology statement said. “These reviews and comments were written out of anger and malice. Now, I, Mr. Barnes, have regretted my actions and would like to apologize to Sea View Koh Chang, and its staff.”
He also apologized “for my repeatedly false and untrue statements/reviews made to maliciously defame Sea View Koh Chang.”
It is unclear if Sea View Koh Chang has dropped the lawsuit yet, however, they said that they would as long as Barnes met all the terms of their settlement (which was agreed upon on Thursday) by Oct. 30.
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The issue between the hotel and its guest first arose when Barnes brought outside alcohol to their restaurant on June 27 without paying the establishment's corkage fee. After a confrontation, Barnes went on to post negative reviews on Tripadvisor, one of which condemned the resort as operating ″modern day slavery.″
"So in my original post (that Never got posted), I used the phrase modern slavery. It was not nice by any means but it made my point and how I felt about the situation there," he said in a statement last month. ″I could have never dreamt what would happen next.″
″I got an email from the hotel telling me to remove all of my reviews or face criminal charges,″ continued Barnes. ″Coming from the west, I felt it was an empty threat. Plus, the review that was used for defamation never got published. Boy was I wrong.″
In its own statement last month, the resort said it agrees the defamation law could seem ″excessive for this situation.″
″We agree that using a defamation law may be viewed as excessive for this situation. However, the guest refused to respond to our attempts at communication and instead continued to persistently post negative and untrue reviews of our business,″ said Sea View. ″We simply want to ensure that these untrue reviews are stopped, and we had no way of negotiating the matter with the guest until after our filing the complaint with authorities."
In Thailand, criminal defamation charges can result in prison time of up to two years. Per the Times, the country's harsh defamation law has long been criticized by human rights advocates who say it can lead to criminal charges for speaking out and is sometimes used by companies to silence critics.
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