Wesley Barnes, at the conclusion of this week’s summit meeting with the hotel, has made it clear that he will not be issuing any further statements on the matter beyond those required under the agreement which includes a statement to international media, an apology to Trat’s Tourism Authority Office and a clarification of events to the United States Embassy in Bangkok.
The American expat teacher Wesley Barnes has reached a grovelling settlement with the Sea View Hotel on Ko Chang following his malicious campaign against the hotel from the end of June until August this year. Under its strict terms, the American expat must take steps to make clear his wrongdoing in the matter and take specified steps to redress the damage done.
The defamation case between American Wesley Barnes and the Sea View Hotel in Ko Chang appears to have been resolved with the American reaching a four-point agreement to apologise for his actions in the matter and an admission that his malicious campaign, waged against the hotel, after a one night visit at the end June, was entirely wrong.
On Thursday, it was reported that Mr Barnes, accompanied by his lawyer Attapol Suwannajan, attended a meeting at the hotel in Ko Chang. The hotel was represented by Pitcha Ratanawong and its lawyer, Tinnapat Meephetatthamongkol.
Meeting and talks this week overseen by Ko Chang police chief Colonel Kitti Maleehuan on the island
The meeting was also attended by the police chief of Ko Chang, Colonel Kitti Maleehuan, who took part as a mediating witness in the talks.
The case had drawn massive international media attention notably for the fact that under Thai law, defamation is a criminal matter and not a civil one.
However, under Thai law, both civil and criminal matters can be resolved through mediation for most offences and under certain circumstances, notably the cooperation of the victim in the matter and approval by state officials.
Hotel forced to file the defamation proceedings after repeatedly reaching out to the American to desist
The Ko Chang hotel, one of the island’s leading employers, was forced to resort to filing a defamation case in August after repeated efforts to reach out to Mr Barnes, who was busy waging a malicious campaign against the hotel on popular social media websites such as TripAdvisor.
Please read our earlier reports on the story here:
Mr Barnes, an American expat working in Thailand as a teacher, had stayed at the hotel for one night on June 27th last.
Despite a commotion being caused in the hotel restaurant over the insistence by the American and a friend that they be allowed to drink their own alcohol, being resolved in his favour through the intervention of a manager, the American later took offence at the way the hotel management treated staff, to his mind.
US teacher admits his reviews and comments were false and wrong saying he got ‘carried away’
In the new statement issued on Thursday, Mr Barnes now accepts that his reviews and comments about the hotel were entirely false and wrong.
His statement offers little explanation for his conduct except to say that he got ‘carried away’ at the time.
In a statement, issued weeks ago at the height of the controversy, Mr Barnes struck an entirely different tone.
He admitted that he had refused repeated appeals from the hotel to discuss the matter and withdraw his damaging comments alluding to ‘slavery’, the nationality of one of the hotel’s managers and to references to the Covid 19 virus which were pointedly designed to inflict damage at the hotel.
In the same statement, he explained his motivation for deciding to launch his subsequent campaign of negative reviews against the hotel was based on his observation, from a distance, of staff members interacting with one of the resort’s managers.
He admitted that he felt that the hotel’s threats of legal proceedings against him were ‘empty’ until he was arrested by Immigration Police on Friday 11th September.
Barnes subsequently spent the following Saturday and Sunday night in a Thai prison on Ko Chang after bail was not posted following his appearance in court on the island, the following Saturday morning.
Demanding agreement that requires Mr Barnes to take a range of steps by the end of October in order for the defamation legal proceedings to be dismissed
The hotel, given its earlier experience with Mr Barnes before the issuance of defamation proceedings and his arrest, has negotiated an extensive agreement.
It compels the American to take several unprecedented actions prior to the 30th October next which will then allow the hotel to withdraw its legal proceedings against him.
Such proceedings, given the aggravating circumstances, if pursued in court, could well see Barnes jailed for his actions and the damage caused to the hotel’s business as well as facing a fine of ฿100,000.
In the agreement, brokered between the lawyers for both parties, Mr Barnes has agreed to issue a statement to a list of foreign and Thai media apologising for his behaviour and containing the following key admission: ‘I, Mr Barnes, am sorry for lying in my review that defamed the hotel’.
He has also committed himself to address the malicious smears and accusations made against the hotel in his wide-ranging reviews and social media messages posted after his trip to the island at the end of June.
Full apology to the Tourism Authority in Trat
The second condition of the agreement is that Mr Barnes issues a full apology to the Trat province branch of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for damaging the province’s tourist industry at this very challenging time with his false and damaging statements.
The third condition is that he makes contact with the United States Embassy in Bangkok and clarifies his conduct in the matter
On Thursday, Mr Tinnapat, the lawyer for the hotel, said the agreement simply calls on Mr Barnes to be ‘honest’ and ‘responsible’ in relation to the affair.
He said that the hotel is very happy to resolve the matter while retaining its integrity and legitimacy. The lawyer said that the case raised questions regarding equality and the respect accorded to all human beings.
Agreement calls for Barnes to seek the removal of current warning notice on the TripAdvisor website
The fourth part of the agreement calls on Mr Barnes to contact the influential TripAdvisor website and confirm his wrongdoing in the affair.
It compels Mr Barnes to request that the US-based website remove a red label on the review section concerning the hotel which alludes to the current controversy.
From over 1,900 previous reviews of the resort on Ko Chang, the hotel has a very positive profile with the overwhelming majority rating the popular getaway spot as either excellent or very good with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5.
The hotel is one of the largest employers on Ko Chang and has retained its staff during this difficult economic period even during the months when the it was shut down.
Expat apologises and thanks the hotel
At the conclusion of this week’s summit between the hotel and Mr Barnes, the American said that he would be making no further comments to the media on the affair except for those within his agreed statements which will be issued to the media.
The statement to be issued by the American will see him apologise for his campaign and the reviews posted which he will declare to be false and defamatory.
Mr Barnes will also reject his claims of slavery and his remarks relating to the current coronavirus emergency. He will admit the capricious nature of the campaign he waged.
The statement will apologise to the hotel’s management and staff and further, thank them for the opportunity to settle the matter so that the offence committed can be forgiven.
Police chief says the resolution shows Thai law works once there is a will on both sides to be responsible
The adjudicating police officer, Colonel Kitti, took the opportunity, on Thursday, to explain that Mr Barnes had been jailed on Ko Chang because his wife or a bail bondsman failed to show up on Saturday the 12th September.
The American was subsequently released on Monday the 14th September once bail was posted.
The police officer said he was both relieved and delighted to see the matter between both parties resolved without further distress to all concerned.
Colonel Kitti highlighted that under Thailand’s laws including the Computer Crime Act, such resolutions are possible once both sides to the dispute are prepared to negotiate and reach a resolution.