The Judicial System in Thailand

In Thailand, the police and prosecution build a strong case against you. This is why cases in Thailand can take over a year to reach a judgment at the Courts of First Instance and at the courts of appeal.

Criminal cases in Thailand are heard by a judge, not by a jury. Appeals go to the Central and nine Regional Courts of Appeal and to the Supreme Court (Dika).

Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court is an independent Thai court established by the 1997 constitution with jurisdiction over the constitutionality of royal decrees and acts of parliament, appointments and terminations of public officials, and issues regarding political parties. The Court’s functions are to uphold the supremacy of the constitution, and to ensure that parliamentary and other political organs function in accordance with the constitutional principles of “democracy with the monarch as head of state.”

After the 2014 military coup, the court continued to deliver rulings. The majority of the rulings have been about validating organic acts (rules of near-constitutional value, placed above legislation in the hierarchy of norms) that were put into place by the junta. Another function is to neutralise opposition political parties, for which it uses a combination of dissolution and electoral bans.

Administrative Court

The Administrative Court is tasked with carrying out control of power exercised by the administrative bodies including examination of their acts that may constitute illegal malpractice or abuse of authority. This often takes the form of the inability of an agency to fulfill its contractual duties or neglecting official duties.

The administrative courts also have the power to examine a place or thing for supplementing evidence for considering the case. This power is in accordance with the regulation prescribed by the general assembly of judges of the Supreme Administrative Court.

When a foreign person is convicted of a criminal offence, his or her permit to remain in Thailand will be revoked and he or she may be deported. This can be a lengthy process. The best approach for such a situation is to consult with a lawyer who can advise on the most appropriate course of action.

Military Court

Among other things, the Military Court verifies the legality of bills and laws and hears cases concerning disciplinary issues and disputes between military officers. It also deals with lese majeste prosecutions.

The ALRC has found that the Military Courts do not afford a full range of internationally-protected rights and that their judges lack independence and impartiality. For example, they are under the command of the Ministry of Defence and the Defense Minister, meaning that they may be influenced by their superiors when making a discretionary decision in a case.

It is too early to say whether the military court’s acceptance of this one lese majeste case marks a change in the junta’s approach to the issue. However, the military’s past record of brutal violence against junior military ranks and civilians is well documented and should not be dismissed.

Juvenile and Family Court

The Juvenile and Family Court deals with cases involving children, families and their related issues. It consists of the Central Juvenile and Family Court in Bangkok, 8 provincial Juvenile and Family Courts and juvenile and family sections within 13 provincial courts.

According to Thai law, children below the age of 7 years are not liable to criminal punishment and those between 7 and 14 are not subject to criminal penalties unless they commit a serious crime (art. 84 of the Act Instituting Juvenile and Family Courts and Procedures of 1991).

Chief judges from every juvenile and family court participated in this seminar to broaden their perspectives on protecting children and improving the courts’ procedural rules to be in line with standards prescribed by the Constitution and international conventions against discrimination. This is especially important when dealing with online child sexual exploitation.

General Courts of First Instance

The judicial system in Thailand has recently undergone an overhaul and is more structured and efficient than before. A new law and regulation outlines specific timeframes for various court proceedings. This should have a positive impact on the legal system by providing greater predictability for businesses and individuals in terms of how long it will take to bring a case to trial.

The General Courts of First Instance handle civil and probate cases not designated to specialized courts as well as juvenile and family matters. In addition, there are 96 Provincial Courts which cover both civil and criminal cases, 77 District (Kweang) Courts, the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, the Central Labor Court and the Central Bankruptcy Court. All of these specialized courts are presided over by professional judges. Appeals against decisions made by these courts are heard in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

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