Wesley Gene Barnes, 37, of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, United States may avoid jail time in Thailand. All he has to do is to follow the terms set by the Sea View Resort and Spa Koh Chang, which is located on Kai Bae Beach on Koh Chang Island, Trat, Thailand.
Barnes is in Thailand as an English teacher. Days after visiting the Sea View Resort and Spa Koh Chang with a friend on June 27, 2020, he wrote negative reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor, one of which accused the company of modern day slavery.
The Sea View Resort and Spa Koh Chang owner filed a defamation complaint against Barnes. He stayed in prison in Koh Chang from September 12-13, 2020 and was able to bail out on September 14, 2020.
If convicted, Barnes could be fined up to 100,000 baht ($3,200) and be jailed for up to five years. On October 9, 2020, the hotel announced that it had agreed to drop charges against him as long as he writes a statement containing an apology and admission that he wrote those negative reviews against the hotel in anger.
The statement should be sent to media, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the U.S. Embassy and TripAdvisor in October 2020. Barnes agreed to the terms, according to the Sea View Resort and Spa Koh Chang.
Barnes has yet to release a statement. The hotel said in a statement to Reuters, “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.”
On September 26, 2020, Barnes sent a lengthy statement to Thailand-based British blogger Richard Barrow. The Pine Bluff native said, “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. I could have never dreamt what would happen next,” Barnes continued. “I got an email from the hotel telling me to remove all of my reviews or face criminal charges. 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.”
“I went for my visa,” Barnes added. “The next day, immigration police was at my workplace with a warrant for my arrest. I was taken to immigration where I waited for Koh Chang police to pick me up and take me to Koh Chang.”