The Thai Legal System

Last updated: 5 Feb 2024
The Thai Legal System

The court system in Thailand is a "dual court system." A dual court system is a judicial structure comprising at least two different, independently running court systems. Because a judge of a particular court cannot be transferred to another court, each case will be decided by judges with specialized legal understanding. The constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand separates the courts into four distinct systems, each with the authority and responsibility to adjudicate a specific sort of case.

1. The Constitutional Court
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, B.E. 2550 (2007), granted the Constitutional Court the authority and responsibility to adjudicate and decide constitutional cases. These rights and responsibilities can be classified into nine functions:

(1) Constitutional scrutiny of bills of law and draft rules of procedure by the legislature prior to publication in order to prevent any contradictions with or violations of the Constitution;

(2) Constitutional assessment of already-enacted laws to prevent constitutional violations or inconsistencies;

(3) A study of the constitutionality of the conditions for passing an emergency decree in order to avoid any discrepancies with the Constitution;

(4) To determine whether a member of the House of Representatives, a senator, or a committee member has committed an act resulting in a direct or indirect interest in the utilization of budgetary appropriations.

(5) To judge on issues involving the powers and responsibilities of two or more organs with relation to the National Assembly, Council of Ministers, or other non-judicial constitutional organs.

(6) To rule on resolutions or regulations of political parties, to hear appeals from members of the House of Representatives, and to rule on instances involving individuals or political parties engaging in the exercise of political rights and liberties.

(7) To rule on the membership or qualifications of National Assembly members, the Minister, and the Election Commissioners;

(8) To determine whether the National Assembly must adopt a treaty;

(9) The authority and responsibilities specified by the Organic Act on Political Parties B.E. 2550 (2007).

2. Administrative Judiciary
The Administrative Court is a separate and independent court from the Court of Justice. The Court has the authority to hear and decide administrative disputes involving a disagreement between an administrative agency or State official and a private individual, or between an administrative agency and a State official. Such conflicts may involve the issue of a regulation or order, illegal activities, the failure of officials to exercise their legal responsibilities, or an excessive delay in performing such responsibilities. Disagreements may also involve a wrongdoing or other liabilities stemming from the exercise of authority under the law, as well as disputes about an administrative contract.

Administrative cases are typically begun in an Administrative Court of First Instance, unless statutes expressly state that a complaint must be filed with the Supreme Administrative Court. The Supreme Administrative Court has jurisdiction over four different categories of administrative cases. These include:

(1) A case involving a dispute over a quasi-judicial commission's decision, as prescribed by the Supreme Administrative Court's General Assembly of Judges;

(2) A dispute concerning a decision of a Royal Decree or by-law issued by the Council of Ministers or with its agreement;

(3) A matter that is statutorily within the Supreme Administrative Court's jurisdiction;

(4) A case in which an administrative court of first instance judgment or order is challenged on appeal.

3. Military Courts
The military courts of Thailand are judicial tribunals with criminal jurisdiction over personnel of the Royal Thai Armed Forces and occasionally also over civilians, as was the case from 25 May 2014 to 12 September 2016 following the 2014 coup d'état in Thailand. Unlike other courts in Thailand's judicial system, military tribunals report to the Ministry of Defense and are administered by the Judge Advocate General's Department. The current military court procedure statute is the Military Court Organization Act of 1955. The statute permits the Thai Judge Advocate General to adopt court regulations. During times of war or martial law, military courts may employ unusual processes. There are two sorts of military personnel who serve as military court judges: "general judges" and "judge-advocates." General judges are officers who are not required to have legal training. Judge-advocates have legal training and accreditation.

According to the Military Court Organization Act of 1955, there are three levels of military courts:

- Courts of first (trial court)

* Courts of military provinces

• Instated in each military province, excluding those with Military Prefectural Commands.

• Authorized to exercise jurisdiction over non-commissioned members of the armed forces.

* Courts of military prefectures

• Established in each military prefecture with the exception of the prefecture in where the Bangkok Military Court is based.

• Authorized to exercise authority over all service personnel other than general officers

* Bangkok military court

• Endowed with unrestricted authority

* Military unit courts

• Founded within a military organization with at least 1,000 members outside Thailand.

Second (appellate court)

* Central Military Court

Third instance (final court of appeal)
• Supreme Military Court

4. Court of Justice

- Courts of First Instance
• General Courts

The General Court is a college-level court that handles civil and criminal issues.

In Bangkok Metropolis Civil Courts

According to Thai law, the plaintiff must file a civil action in the court where the cause of action arises or where the defendant resides. In cases involving immovable property, the plaintiff must file suit in the court where the property is located or where the defendant resides. In Bangkok, the Civil Court, the Bangkok South Civil Court, the Thon Buri Civil Court, the Min Buri Provincial Court, the Taling Chan Provincial Court, and the Phra Khanong Provincial Court are the first instance civil courts. The Civil Court has the power to either try and adjudicate civil disputes arising beyond its territorial jurisdiction or to transfer them to a court with territorial jurisdiction.

Criminal Courts

The court in a district where a crime has been committed, is alleged to have been committed, or is thought to have been committed, where an accused resides or is apprehended, or where an inquiry official conducts an investigation has jurisdiction over criminal proceedings. In Bangkok, the Criminal Court, the Bangkok South Criminal Court, the Thon Buri Criminal Court, the Min Buri Provincial Court, the Taling Chan Provincial Court, and the Phra Khanong Provincial Court are the first instance criminal courts. In addition, the Criminal Court has the option to either try and decide criminal cases that arose outside of its territorial jurisdiction but were nonetheless presented before it, or to transfer them to the court with territorial jurisdiction.

Municipal Courts (Kwaeng Courts)

The primary purpose of municipal courts is to expeditiously resolve minor disputes with minimal formality and expenditure. These courts have both criminal and civil case jurisdiction. Criminal matters occur under the jurisdiction and must involve a crime punishable by a maximum of three years in prison or a maximum fine of 60,000 baht, or both. In civil lawsuits, the total amount of claims cannot exceed 300,000 Thai Baht. In Municipal Courts, the emphasis is on a swift trial; hence, the trial is simplified, and oral judgment or a summary decision may be

* The Family and Juvenile Courts

The Juvenile and Family Courts consist of the Central Juvenile and Family Court, the Provincial Juvenile and Family Courts, and the Juvenile and Family Divisions of the Provincial Courts. In accordance with the Constitution, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, it is necessary to strengthen the provisions on rights protection, welfare, and practices for children, women, and family members, including the procedure in the Juvenile and Family Court. The Juvenile and Family Court and Its Procedure Act, B.E. 2553 (2010), enters into force.

* Specialized Courts

The purpose of establishing the specialized court is to ensure that specialised or technical issues are resolved by competent arbitrators.

The Central Labor Court

The Central Labor Court decides all labor law and employment-related disputes. Its jurisdiction encompasses all types of labor disputes, particularly those involving 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 relation to labor disputes or work performance; and any labor disputes that the Minister of the Interior requests the Court to decide.

The Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court

According to the Establishment and Procedure for Intellectual Property and International Trade Courts Act B.E. 2539 (1996), the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court has jurisdiction over six provinces: Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakon, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, and Pathum Thani. As regional Intellectual Property and International Trade Courts have not yet been created, the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court has jurisdiction over the entirety of the United Kingdom.

According to Section 7 of 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 has the authority to adjudicate civil and criminal cases involving intellectual property and international trade;

(1) Criminal proceedings involving trademarks, copyrights, and patents

(2) Criminal proceedings involving violations of Sections 271-275 of the Criminal Code;

(3) Civil lawsuits involving trademarks, copyrights, and patents, as well as cases involving technology transfer and licensing agreements;

(4) Civil proceedings related to Sections 271-275 of the Criminal Code;

(5) Civil proceedings involving foreign sales, the exchange of products or financial instruments, international services, international transport, insurance, and other similar legal acts;

(6) Civil cases involving letters of credit issued in conjunction with transactions under subparagraph (5), inbound or outward remittances of monies, trust receipts, and related assurances;

(7) Civil proceedings involving the arrest of vessels;

(8) Civil actions involving dumping and subsidization of foreign goods or services;

9) Civil or criminal actions involving disputes over integrated circuit layout designs, scientific discoveries, trade names, geographical identifications, trade secrets, and plant variety protection;

(10) Civil or criminal proceedings assigned to the jurisdiction of the Intellectual Property and International Trade Courts by statute;

(11) Civil cases regarding arbitration to settle conflicts under (3) – (10)

The Central Tax Court

The jurisdiction of the Central Tax Court extends to the entire Kingdom of Thailand. The Central Tax Court has the authority to hear and decide only the following civil cases:

(1) An appeal against a decision of an officer or the commission under taxation law, such as a request for the cancellation of an officer's assessment under the Internal Revenue Code (an assessed person is required to have appealed against an assessment of an officer or the Commission of Appeal first, upon a decision made by then, a case is them allowed to be filed for action with the Central Tax Court.)

(2) A dispute involving government claims for tax responsibilities, such as the Revenue Department suing a taxpayer to collect delinquent taxes.

(3) A disagreement involving a tax refund, such as a charge for a refund of value-added tax or for a return of other taxes paid by the taxpayer who believes he was not obligated to make such a payment. (However, for a charge for this reimbursement, a plaintiff must first apply for a tax refund to the relevant government agencies before earning the right to file a lawsuit in the Central Tax Court.)

(4) A disagreement involving a right or obligation on obligations undertaken for the purpose of tax collection, such as the Revenue Department suing a surety who has made an obligation on behalf of a taxpayer.

(5) A case for which the Central Tax Court is statutorily vested with exclusive jurisdiction.

The Court of Central Bankruptcy

The Bankruptcy Courts consist of a Central Bankruptcy Court and Regional Bankruptcy Courts. The Central Bankruptcy Court has jurisdiction over the whole Bangkok Metropolitan Area, however all bankruptcies that occur outside of this area may be filed with the court. However, the Central Bankruptcy Court may decline to hear such matters at its discretion. Regional Bankruptcy Courts may be created by statutes that specify their separate jurisdictions and locations.

* Courts of Appeal

The Court of Appeal hears appeals against the decisions or orders of the Civil and Criminal Courts. In the meanwhile, the Regional Courts of Appeal hear appeals against judgments or orders issued by other Courts of First Instance within their respective regions. In addition, according to the Narcotic Cases Procedure Act B.E. 2550 and the Anti-Human Trafficking Procedure Act B.E. 2559.

The Court of Appeal has jurisdiction over appeals of decisions in drugs cases and human trafficking cases from all throughout the nation.

• Human Trafficking Cases Division

• Consumer Cases Division

• Corruption and Misconduct Cases Division

• Narcotics Cases Division

• Election Cases Division

• Environmental Cases Division

- The Supreme Court

The President of the Supreme Court serves as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as the Supreme Court is the highest court. The Supreme Court has the authority to hear and decide cases that are appealed from judgments or orders made by the Courts of Appeal in line with the provisions of the Dika Appeal, as well as those that fall under the Supreme Court's jurisdiction according to the special statute. In Thailand, there is just one Supreme Court, which is located in Bangkok. The typical quorum of the Supreme Court consists of three Supreme Court justices. The President of the Supreme Court has the authority to bring such cases to the plenary session of the Supreme Court for adjudication in exceptional circumstances involving substantial factual or legal concerns.

The Supreme Court has eleven specialized divisions, as follows:

• Division of Juvenile and Family

• Division of Labor

• Division of Taxes

• Division of Intellectual Property and International Trading, including copyright law of Thailand

• Division of Bankruptcy

• Criminal Division of Holders of Political Positions

• Division of Commerce and Economy

• Environmental Division of the Supreme Court

• Division of Consumer

• Division of Election Cases

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