TRAT — An American on Thursday offered a formal apology to a hotel that accused him of cybercrime for a series of disparaging reviews he wrote online – a complaint that resulted in the expat spending two nights in a police jail.
American teacher Wesley Barnes apologized to the management of Sea View Koh Chang hotel during a mediation meeting held on Thursday. Koh Chang police superintendent Kitti Maleehuan said both parties reached a settlement and the hotel agreed to withdraw all charges against Barnes, ending a legal affair that grabbed worldwide attention.
“I, Mr. Barnes, regret posting a false review about the hotel,” Barnes said in a statement issued to the media. “The comments I wrote were unfounded and were the result of my heedless behavior. I accept my mistake and apologize to the hotel.”
Although other media reports say Barnes was charged with Computer Crime Act as well as libel, Col. Kitti said only the former was used against him.
The hotel filed the complaints in September after Barnes reportedly had an argument with hotel restaurant staff during his stay and left one-star reviews on the popular travel site Tripadvisor.
One of the reviews urged travelers to avoid the Koh Chang resort “like the coronavirus” while another accused a hotel manager of mistreating his employees.
Barnes was arrested at the school he worked on a charge of posting false information on the internet, an offense punishable under the Computer Crime Act. He was detained for two nights at a police station on Koh Chang before he could gather sufficient financial documents to post a bail.
According to the hotel, Barnes tried to bring alcohol into the restaurant and refused to pay a corkage fee of 500 baht. He reportedly had a heated exchange with a manager before he was eventually allowed to consume his own beverage without having to pay the fees.
The case also garnered much attention from the international media, highlighting once again the sweeping power of Thailand’s Computer Crime Act, which is often used by influential figures to punish critics and silence discussion on social media.
If found guilty, Barnes could have faced two years in prison.
Tinnapat Mepetchautmongkol, a lawyer representing Sea View Koh Chang, said the hotel is willing to withdraw the charges against Barnes after he met all the demands laid out by the company.
The conditions include issuing an apology statement to the media, the local tourism authority office, and Tripadvisor for defaming the hotel. He must provide an explanation to the U.S. embassy in Bangkok as well.
Tinnapat said Barnes promised to carry them out by the end of this month.
“Barnes contacted us for a negotiation. We’re happy to put an end to the case, but he must show his sincere apology for his actions,” Tinnapat said.