An overview of litigation in Thailand
Thailand is predominantly ruled by civil law, where codified laws, rules, and regulations prevail, as opposed to common law, which relies more case law interpretations of legislation. Nevertheless, there are conditions during which a common law approach may be taken. Most people who find themselves in court will either be at one of the Courts of Justice or at the Administrative Court.
Thailand’s Courts of Justice
There are three levels in the Thai court system: courts of first instance (trial and specialised courts), appeals court, and supreme court.
Trial courts (courts of first instance): In Bangkok, there are separate criminal and civil courts; whereas, outside Bangkok, the provincial courts cover both criminal and civil matters. For small claims and petty offenses, there are district (Kwaeng) courts across the country to handle them.
Specialised courts (courts of first instance): Thai law, recognising that certain areas require judges with subject-matter expertise or experience, also established specialised courts, such as for tax, bankruptcy, labour, and juvenile legal matters.
Appeals Court: Generally, only matters with disputes for over 50,000 baht can file with the Appeals Court, unless the trial level court determines the decision warrants such attention. No new evidence is allowed unless under extremely special circumstances as the Appeals Court will normally only preside over the trial court’s proceedings.
Supreme Court: As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court will only hear cases determined to be of significant relevance of the public interest or to the rule of law in Thailand. Typically, an appeal against a decision of one of the specialised courts will go directly to the Supreme Court.
Thailand’s Administrative Court
The Administrative Court system was set up to rule on disputes involving government agencies and regulatory bodies. This can include disputes with individual or entities or disputes between government bodies; for example, regarding government contracts. This system comprises a court of first instance and a court of last resort.