The burden of proof for a criminal case is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and the public prosecutor must have sufficient evidence to charge a defendant. There are no jury trials.
Civil cases often involve property disputes, employment actions and divorces. There are also specialized courts such as the Court of Intellectual Property and the Court of International Trade.
The criminal courts of Thailand have jurisdiction over crimes committed within the country’s territory. Unlike the British system, which has a jury, Thai courts are statute-based and judges have a great deal of power.
The judge presiding over the court has sole discretion to decide whether a defendant is guilty or not and determine sentencing in the event of a guilty verdict. The burden of proof is higher than in many Western countries requiring the plaintiff to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
The Supreme Court hears appeals from the Central and nine Provincial Courts on cases that were ruled by the Court of First Instance or the Court of Appeals. It can reaffirm, reverse or amend the lower courts’ decisions.
If you run a business in Thailand, you’ll need to understand how the country’s criminal courts work. If your company’s actions fall foul of local laws, you could face civil litigation or even a criminal prosecution.
Civil cases involve a variety of issues including property and commercial disputes, employment actions, divorces, torts (known as wrongful acts in Thai law) or the recovery of debts. There is no jury system in Thailand, so the judge presiding over your case will determine guilt or innocence based on evidence presented by both parties.
A party can appeal a decision of the Courts of First Instance, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court (known as Dika). Cases involving specialized laws such as labor, taxes, intellectual property and international trade are heard in specialized courts where only career judges with relevant knowledge preside. The right to appeal a judgment of these specialized courts is subject to conditions and circumstances.
Juvenile and Family Courts
Since children and youth are deemed differently according to laws in Thailand, their justice system has its own separate courts. These are the Juvenile and Family Courts. They are tasked to promote the development of children and help them develop ethical values, as well as their responsibility towards society.
In some cases, a judge can impose behavioural control through probation for children and youth. However, for those who commit serious crimes such as murder, drugs, and robbery, they will have to face the same process as adult offenders.
Generally, the judgments of the Juvenile and Family Court can be appealed by the Court of Justice. The Court of Justice consists of the Central and nine regional Courts of Appeal that hear appeals on points of law or facts, as well as the Supreme Court (Dika).
Court of Justice
The Court of Justice, consisting of the Supreme Court and courts of appeal, oversees all civil and criminal cases throughout Thailand. In addition, the 96 provincial courts cover both civil and criminal matters, as do seven Kweang courts with limited jurisdiction. All court proceedings are conducted in Thai and all testimony or documentary evidence must be translated into the language prior to its submission in court.
The emphasis by judges on the security of their jurisdiction, the efficiency of their processes and an insistence on a ‘certainty’ standard of proof suggests a desire to enforce an orderly judicial philosophy. Interviews with judges highlight a strong reliance on culturally grounded assumptions about the moral characters of defendants, whom they stereotype as cunning, exploitationative and lazy.
Nevertheless, these guiding values are not always respected and in some cases may be overridden by the needs of the case. This was evident in the recent protests triggered by the construction of the new residence for judges, carved into the slope of Doi Suthep, an important spiritual and ecological site.