The Thai Legal System – Civil and Criminal Cases

In Thailand, cases are decided by a judge. Unlike in the West, there is no jury system.

Civil and criminal cases are argued in a hierarchy, with cases first filed with the Court of First Instance. Decisions from this court can be appealed to the Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court.

Legal System

The legal system in Thailand is based on the country’s Constitution, which prevails over laws passed by parliament. It also includes thousands of organic laws, such as decrees and governmental notifications and regulations.

The main components of the Thai court system are the Courts of First Instance, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme (Dika) Court.

Courts of First Instance are where cases are initially lodged so that questions both of fact and law can be heard and adjudicated upon. They include Civil Courts, Criminal Courts and District (Kweang) courts as well as Juvenile and Family courts and specialized courts such as the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court and the Central Labour Court.

Unlike most jurisdictions around the world, Thailand does not have a jury system and judges alone decide court cases. Pleadings and testimony are submitted in the Thai language, although English is accepted in some courts. Cases are usually heard and decided by a panel of three professional judges.

Court of First Instance

Litigation in Thailand can be a lengthy process. To help clarify the process for those involved, and to expedite litigation, judicial authorities including the Court of Justice and Administrative courts have recently released their regulations on the timeframe for considering a case in the respective jurisdictions.

The Court of First Instance is a trial court that handles both civil and criminal cases. It consists of the Civil Courts (which include Bangkok, Metropolitan, Thon Buri and Min Buri) as well as Provincial Courts and District (Kweang) Courts across the country.

The court system in Thailand is inquisitorial, meaning that judges hear evidence and arguments on a case-by-case basis rather than following a predetermined set of rules such as those found in common law or continental European civil law systems. Generally, there is a panel of three professional judges who hear each case. The courts also do not use juries. If you are not satisfied with the decision rendered by the Court of First Instance, you can appeal to the Appeals Court.

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is the second tier of the court system and is located in Bangkok. It consists of the general court of appeals and nine Thai regional courts of appeal. The President of the Supreme Court is the chief justice of this court and he or she is assisted by a number of Vice – Presidents.

This division reviews and decides Thailand civil and criminal cases that are appealed from the lower courts in their respective regions. It also hears cases on appeal involving intellectual property such as trademarks, copyrights and patents and international trade matters such as the layout and design of integrated circuits and protection measures for plant varieties.

Until recently, it was possible to appeal to the Supreme Court from an appellate court’s decision, if the judge in that case believed the case could be justified on a question of law. Act 27 now requires all cases filed to be evaluated as to whether or not they are eligible for consideration, review and adjudication by the Supreme Court.

Court of Supreme Court

The Supreme Court (Thai: , San Dika) is the final court of appeal for both civil and criminal cases in Thailand. It is based in Bangkok, near the Grand Palace and serves to represent Thai cultures and identity.

The court system in Thailand is influenced by both the United Kingdom and European (Continental) civil law systems. The main difference is that unlike the Western system, which uses a jury trial, Thailand has an inquisitorial court structure with professional judges who rule on a case-by-case basis.

The justice system is complemented by the Kweang courts (Thai: , Kweang Kad) which are regional specialized courts for labor and tax matters, intellectual property and international trade, bankruptcy, and others. A judgment from these courts may be challenged only if it is deemed that the law or fact has been violated. Appeals are heard by three professional judges. This is the highest level of justice in the country. It is a powerful body that can enforce its own judgments and rules.

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