When do you go to court in Thailand?
Culturally, Thailand is not a litigious society, and negotiation or mediation is customary, and often court mandated, before a matter makes it before a court. However, due to social and cultural issues, if relations between two parties have deteriorated to the stage where court action is threatened or initiated, it is unlikely that a satisfactory compromise will be reached. There are also multiple alternative dispute resolutions available in Thailand including arbitration proceedings with the Thai Arbitration Institute, the International Chamber of Commerce – Thailand, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, and the Office of the Insurance Commission where expert and qualified arbitrators are available upon registration.
Can a foreigner file a court case in Thailand? Do I have to speak Thai?
Yes, a foreigner has the right to file cases in Thailand in any of the courts as long as the matter they wish to pursue in the courts falls under Thai jurisdiction. A person does not have to be a resident of Thailand to file a case, but only registered Thai lawyers are permitted to practice law in Thailand and to appear before the courts.
No, a person does not have to speak Thai, but all court proceedings are conducted in Thai, so documents must be translated before they are admitted in court. One exception to this is the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court when the parties agree to not translate documents and evidence.
Is there a jury system?
No, trial by jury is not practiced in Thailand as it has a civil law legal system where judges apply law to a case. All questions of law and fact are determined before a judge or judges who then render a decision. The number of judges who hear a case varies from one, three or five depending on the relevant court’s jurisdiction or the level of the appeal, particularly on specific comprehensive issues of law by the plenary session of the Supreme Court
What courts deal with civil and criminal cases?
In Bangkok Metropolis, criminal cases are under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Courts and under the Kweang Court for petty offences while all civil cases are under the relevant Civil Courts and the Kweang Courts for small claims. Outside of Bangkok Metropolis, all 110 Provincial courts have jurisdiction over both civil and criminal cases while the Provincial Kweang Courts have jurisdiction over petty offences and small claims. The Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court accept only appeals that meet their criteria for further deliberation and final judgment.
What are the Specialized Courts?
Thailand has four Specialized Courts of the First Instance – the Central Labour Court, the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, the Central Tax Court, and the Central Bankruptcy Court. These courts were established so that specific legal issues under their jurisdiction would be heard by career judges with the appropriate background and expertise. They are all Courts of the First Instance with jurisdiction over the entire Kingdom, and most appeals go directly to the Supreme Court.
I’ve heard that court cases take a long time in Thailand. Is this true?
Not necessarily. It is true that court cases can take a long time in Thailand when going to the Supreme Court for judgment; however, lengthy court cases are not uncommon in many other countries. The length of time a court case takes in Thailand depends on the complexity of the case and what court it is before. At the Courts of the First Instance, a judgment can be expected in one to one-and-a-half years, and at the Courts of Appeal, it is not less than a year. Most of the time waiting is now at the Supreme Court. Injunctions can be handed down from the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court in just over a week.
Is there an appeal process?
Yes, should any party in a case disagree with the decision of the Court of First Instance, that party can file a written appeal to the Court of Appeal within one month from the date of delivery of judgment of the Court of First Instance. The Court of Appeal hears civil and criminal cases brought from all parts of the country, and it either reaffirms or revises the decision of the lower court. There is no taking of evidence from witnesses at the level of the Appeal Court or at the Supreme Court. Unless decided otherwise by the court, only written arguments submitted by lawyers representing the parties, and the related files from the Court of First Instance will be deliberated by the justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
How can one tell if a case should appear before the Court of Justice or the Administrative Court?
The Kingdom adopted the role of the Administrative Court in 1999, and it is an independent judicial organization separate from the Court of Justice. It has the power to hear and adjudicate administrative cases including disputes between private individuals and administrative agencies or State officials and administrative agencies and State officials and disputes on government contracts. The separation of administrative cases and civil cases is primarily judged by the lawyers on whether the dispute is over the government’s order, regulation, resolution, or contract and/or is an administrative dispute. If so, then the dispute falls within the jurisdiction of the Administrative Courts. Cases on other than these issues belong to the Court of Justice. If there is any disagreement, an order of the Supreme Court’s President is final.