American Escapes Jail Time After 'Stilted' Apology to Resort

Wesley Barnes had faced years behind bars for trashing Thai resort online, violating defamation law
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2020 11:23 AM CDT
Resort Gives American Get-Out- of-Jail Card for Bad Reviews
Blue water lines the coast of Koh Chang island in Thailand in March 2018.   (AP Photo/Phusit wirutthanatporn)

Looks like Wesley Barnes won't see jail time after all. The American living in Thailand had complained online, including on the Tripadvisor site, about the Sea View Koh Chang resort, airing grievances about his stay there over the "unfriendly staff" and accusing the resort of "modern-day slavery" after a dispute over a $16 corkage fee. Because of the country's strict anti-defamation laws, however, Barnes, who teaches English there, soon found himself in hot water, as the resort sued him and local police brought criminal charges against him, with the possibility of several years behind bars. Per the New York Times, Barnes can now breathe a sigh of relief, as the hotel has agreed to drop its suit as part of a settlement agreement that included an apology from him.

And he did apologize Friday, via a statement he was made to send to news outlets that covered the case, though the Times notes it was "a statement filled with stilted official language reminiscent of a forced confession." "All of the statements that I made are completely untrue," the statement read. "These reviews and comments were written out of anger and malice. Now, I, Mr. Barnes, have regretted my actions." It's unclear exactly how much prison time he would've faced—the Times says two years, Reuters says five years, and the AP says seven—but he's grateful to have escaped whatever his fate might have been. "I would like to sincerely thank the hotel and its staff," he said in his statement. The hotel is also looking for Barnes to send an apology letter to Thailand's tourism promotion board, an explainer to the US Embassy, and a clarification to Tripadvisor, per the AP. (More TripAdvisor stories.)

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