Civil and Criminal Cases in Thailand

In Thailand, the distinction between criminal actions and civil defaults is often very thin. This is particularly true in cases where foreign elements are involved.

The country has a civil law system which is influenced by Supreme Court decisions and does not utilise case law or have the jury system as seen in common law countries.

Dispute Resolution

In Thailand, out of court mediation is increasingly common and the benefits of a skilled mediator are becoming more widely recognised. Parties may designate their own chosen mediator or make use of the services offered by the Thai Mediation Center. The court also has the power to order that a dispute be settled through conciliation, which is similar to mediation but not exactly the same.

Civil cases are heard by the Court of Justice, with appeals going to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court (or Dika court). Specialised courts include the Labor Court, Tax Court, Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, Bankruptcy Court and the Labour Court.

Arbitration is often more efficient than litigation in the local state courts and Juslaws & Consult offers arbitration services to clients. The process of settling disputes through arbitration is governed by special legislation, the Arbitration Act B.E. 2530 (1987). Arbitration is suited to a wide variety of civil disputes.

Criminal Cases

In Thailand, criminal cases are decided by judges, not a jury. The police and prosecutors have great power and resources to build their case against you. If you are convicted, the punishment can include imprisonment, fines, or a ban on returning to the country.

The courts in Thailand that handle criminal cases include the Courts of First Instance, the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court (Dika). Each court has its own jurisdiction based on the district where an offence is committed, alleged or believed to have been committed, where an accused person resides or where an inquiry official conducts an inquiry.

The legal system in Thailand is complex but predictable. A skilled and seasoned lawyer can work the process to your advantage and help you understand what to expect from the court at each stage. This will allow you to plan accordingly and mitigate the risk of serious consequences if you or your company are involved in criminal litigation.

Civil Cases

Generally speaking, Thai courts are willing to encourage the parties in dispute to enter into an amicable settlement at any stage of a civil litigation. However, the court is not obligated to do so.

The trial procedure in civil cases is similar to that of criminal trials and involves the examination of witnesses by both the prosecution and defense attorneys. Pieces of evidence can be either original or replica copies, but the authenticity of these must be verified by the embassy or consulate in the foreign country where the document was originally issued.

If a party disagrees with the decision made by the court of first instance, they may file an appeal to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. In such a case, the court will review the evidence gathered in the trial as well as the laws applied by the lower court. Foreign judgments cannot be enforced directly as Thailand is not a signatory of any convention or treaty on recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.

Legal Services

A lawyer’s role is to assist a client with legal services related to litigation, contract drafting and other general legal matters. He or she can also provide guidance and solutions to a variety of disputes, including civil and criminal frivolous claims.

Generally, the judiciary encourages both parties to settle their dispute through the court-supervised mediation process prior to taking the matter to court. However, if it is found that compromise is not likely, the case will proceed to court proceedings.

The courts also play a significant role in interpreting laws passed by the legislature and reviewing government actions. In addition, the courts can reject or amend proposed legislation. The Constitutional Court, in particular, has an important constitutional mandate to ensure that laws are consistent with the 2007 Constitution.

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