Civil and Criminal Cases in Thailand

Civil cases typically involve property and commercial disputes, personal actions, and family law issues. They are generally handled by local courts.

Criminal cases are handled by the district court of the area where the offence was alleged, committed or believed to be committed or by the Central and nine regional courts. Appeals are heard by the Court of Appeal.

Court of First Instance

The legal system in Thailand is based on a three-tier court structure: the Court of First Instance, the Appeals Court and the Supreme (Dika) Court.

The Court of First Instance handles civil and criminal cases. This includes the Bangkok Metropolitan Court and 110 provincial courts throughout the country. Additionally, the Kweang Courts (with limited jurisdiction) and the Juvenile and Family courts handle both civil and criminal cases.

The judicial system in Thailand is inquisitorial and does not use trial by jury. It is also composed of professional judges that form a tribunal to hear the case. A judge may be joined by two, three or five other professional judges to decide the case. The Court of Appeals and nine other regional appellate courts have the jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Court of First Instance. In addition, there are four specialized courts – the Central Tax Court, the Labor Court, the Intellectual Property and International Trade Court and the Bankruptcy Court – with the right to hear appeals from these decisions.

Court of Appeal

The mainstream court system consists of the Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme (Dika) Court. There are also specialized courts such as the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court.

The Courts of Appeal review decisions from the lower courts. Generally, the appeals courts do not conduct hearings but rely on the documents sent to them by the lower court and a petition filed by the party. The Supreme Court can hear appeals from Appeals Court judgments but only on matters of law and/or if one of the Appeals Court judges dissents or certifies that reasonable grounds exist to consider the matter.

In criminal cases, the accused can bypass the police and prosecutor and bring their case directly to the court. In this case, the judge must hold an investigative hearing before deciding whether to proceed with a full trial. In some cases, the judge may require the parties to participate in a settlement negotiation or mediation.

Court of Supreme Court

The Court of Supreme Court (Thai: ) is the top-level of Thailand’s judiciary system and operates in accordance with the Constitution of Thailand. The Court of Supreme Court prioritizes the principles of human rights protection in case handling. It also strives to improve efficiency through four measures: the increase in number of courts and court branches; specialized courts adjudicated by expert judges; a commitment to promote alternative dispute resolution as a diversionary measure; and e-court procedures.

Thailand has mainstream Courts of First Instance in Bangkok and each 110 provinces and districts, as well as specialized courts such as the Central Labour Court, the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, and the Central Bankruptcy Court. In general, the cases filed in these courts are categorized as civil or criminal matters. If a decision of the Court of First Instance is unfavorable, appeals can be made to the appeal courts, and further to the Supreme Court, which has the final authority in cases that have been upheld by appeal courts.

Foreign Judgments

In general, Thailand courts are generally receptive to the recognition and enforcement of foreign money judgments. However, such recognition and enforcement is subject to Thai law including the principles of comity, reciprocity and res judicata.

Furthermore, foreign judgments will only be enforced if a fresh case is brought in order to enforce the judgment and if it is proved that the original judgment was rendered by a court of correct jurisdiction and that it has reached finality. As such, the exequatur procedure will not be applied in this country.

The burden of proof in criminal cases like murder and rape is proof beyond reasonable doubt. For civil disputes, the standard of proof is a preponderance of evidence (aka ‘the balance of probabilities’). As a general rule, the burden of proof is lighter in cases involving economic and property issues. Thai culture also tends to favour amicable dispute resolution in good faith, and courts of first instance will often require the parties to attempt to resolve their disputes prior to court intervention.

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