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 issues would be heard by career judges with the appropriate background and expertise. They are all Courts of the First Instance, and most appeals go directly to the Supreme Court. All the Specialized Courts have jurisdiction throughout the entire Kingdom, but most are located in the Central Court in Bangkok, apart from the Labour Court which has eight regional branches. The Labour Court and the Intellectual Property and International Trade Court use a mix of career judges and associate judges, laymen with the appropriate expertise, and this gives these two courts an even broader base of specialization to draw upon.
The Central Labour Court
To separate the rights of workers and labor matters from regular civil cases, the Central Labor Court was established under the Act on the Establishment of and Procedure for the Labor Court B.E. 2522 (1979), and it utilizes the Labor Protection Act of 1998 and the Civil and Commercial Code along with multiple employment acts and statutes. According to the Act, a career judge, an associate judge representing employer rights and an associate judge representing employee rights must be present in equal numbers to form a quorum for adjudication. All career judges and associate judges, separately recruited laymen, must possess competent knowledge and be experienced in labor law and employment matters. Labor Court associate judges are elected from the members of employer’s associations and labor unions within the territorial jurisdiction of the labor court. After their appointment, associate judges are trained in their official roles and hold office for two years and can be reappointed. The Central Labor Court itself is located in Bangkok and has jurisdiction throughout the entire Kingdom.
The Court adjudicates all labor law cases and related employment matters. Its remit includes all types of labor disputes especially ones dealing with the issues of labor protection, unfair discrimination, and labor relations; appeals against decisions made by Labor officials on labor matters or by the Minister; cases arising from wrongful acts between employers and employees in connection to labor disputes or work performance; and any labor disputes that the Minister of the Interior requires Court to decide on. All labor court proceedings begin with mandatory mediation. If the parties cannot agree to a compromise or settlement, the trial will proceed. At any time during the trail, the parties can choose to settle their case through mediation. At the conclusion of the trail, the Court must promptly render a judgment or order within three days. All Central Labor Court appeals go directly to the Supreme Court; however, it only hears appeals on questions of law in a labor court’s judgment or order, and appeals must be submitted within 15 days of the date of the Court’s judgment or order.
The Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court
The Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court was established on the premise that intellectual property and international trade cases are very different from ordinary criminal and civil cases and should be decided by career judges and associate judges, separately recruited laymen, who possess competent knowledge and are experienced in intellectual property and international trade. Under the Act for the Establishment of and Procedure for Intellectual Property and International Trade Court B.E. 2539 (1996), the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court adjudicates both civil and criminal cases regarding intellectual property and civil cases regarding international trade for all of Thailand. According to the Act, at least two career judges and one associate judge must be present to form a quorum for adjudication, and any judgment or order requires a majority vote. The Court itself is located in Bangkok and has jurisdiction throughout the entire Kingdom. As there are no regional courts, to make it easier and more economical, plaintiffs in civil lawsuits can file complaints at a court within the territorial jurisdiction of the defendant’s domicile or where the cause of action takes place. In turn, prosecutors must file indictments to the courts located where the offence was committed or where the accused resides or was arrested.
The Court hears civil and criminal cases on intellectual property for trademark, copyright and patent infringement under the Trademark Act, the Copyright Act, and the Patent Act, and civil cases on technology transfer and licensing agreements. The international trade cases covered by the Court include civil cases relating to international sales, exchange of goods or financial instruments, international services, international carriage, insurance and other related transactions as well as civil and criminal cases dealing with the layout-design of integrated circuits, scientific discoveries, trade names, geographical indications, trade secrets and plant varieties protection.
Judicial proceedings in the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court are continuous without adjournment until the hearing is over. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court must promptly render a judgment or order. This allows for quick, economical court proceedings, and with solid evidence, an injunction can be issued in one week’s time. The Court also incorporates some special procedures to further cut down on costs and save time. These include pre-trial conferencing, the specific Rules of the Court on proceedings and hearing of evidence, and witness testimony and examination through video conferencing. In addition, this Court is the first E-court in Thailand whereby lawyers representing the parties can register after filing the plaint and use EDI communications through the Court’s system to exchange and lodge petitions, to answer to the Court, or for any correspondence between the relevant parties and the Court. However, a prior arrangement must be made with the Court and the parties must comply with the Court’s E-court rules. Parties to intellectual property cases can apply for interim injunctions and can submit witness statements, opinions and contracts in place of formal Court examinations. The Court will accept documentation in English, and computerized records can be used as evidence. In cases where the Court believes evidence will be destroyed, parties can request seizure orders. At any time during the dispute process, the parties can choose to settle their case through court-annexed conciliation. In the conciliation process, the Court provides its personnel and facilities, and if necessary, the proceedings can be held in English. All Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court appeals go directly to the Supreme Court, and appeals must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the Court’s judgment or order.
The Central Tax Court
The Central Tax Court is located in Bangkok and is the Court of First Instance for all tax cases throughout the Kingdom under the Act for the Establishment of the Tax Court and Procedures for Tax Cases B.E. 2528 (1985). It is a prerequisite for most tax disputes to be brought before an administrator for appeal prior to instigating the case before the Tax Court unless it is a dispute against any wrongdoing by a tax assessment officer which could carry a criminal punishment. A Tax Appeal Committee is empowered to reaffirm, repeal, reverse and amend any tax assessment. If a taxpayer is not satisfied with the decision of the Tax Appeal Committee, they can then appeal to the Tax Court within 30 days from receiving the decision from the Committee. However, before any tax matter can be brought before a Tax Appeal Committee, a taxpayer must remit any outstanding taxes or fines related to the case to the tax authorities unless the plaintiff has an Injunction Order from the Governor of the Revenue Department. All appeals against the Tax Court’s verdicts go directly to the Supreme Court, and appeals must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the Tax Court’s judgment or order. A party cannot appeal a case under THB 50,000 on questions of fact unless the presiding judges authorize it.
The Central Bankruptcy Court
Thailand’s bankruptcy laws were modified in 1997 after the Asian financial crisis and now incorporate new Chapter 3/1 Rehabilitation similar to the concept of U.S. Chapter 11. However, the availability of rehabilitation plans, versus forced liquidation, is not just given specifically to debtors, but also to creditors. The Central Bankruptcy Court (the “Bankruptcy Court”) was established the same year on the premise that bankruptcy cases are significantly different from general civil cases, have an impact on the economy, and should be decided by career judges who possess competent knowledge and are experienced in bankruptcy and financial matters. The Bankruptcy Court adjudicates both civil and criminal cases regarding all rehabilitations and bankruptcies. Located in Bangkok, it is the Court of First Instance for all bankruptcy matters with jurisdiction over the entire Kingdom.
Judicial proceedings and trial hearings in the Bankruptcy Court are video recorded to help streamline the entire process, and the Court has the power to incorporate new processes without going through the complex procedure of amending the Civil Code. The Bankruptcy Court has also adopted new IT systems to further accelerate proceedings including the use of electronic equipment and express mail in court communications. The Court can also give provincial courts the authority to issue search and arrest warrants. An appeal against any judgment or order of the Bankruptcy Court in reorganization cases or any civil cases related to it must submitted to the Supreme Court within one month of the Court’s judgment or order.