Thai Civil Court Jurisdictions
Civil Actions. These are actions sought for the exercise or protection of one’s right or the prevention or repair of a wrong done. They span business and property conflicts to personal and domestic felonies and other civil transgressions wherein a person may inflict harm on another or damage upon another’s property or rights. The most common types of civil action are a breach of contract, defamation, personal injuries, real estate violations or disputes, and labor controversies.
Breach of Contract. The failure to perform or deliver any term of a written or verbal agreement without a valid legal reason can constitute a breach or violation of that agreement. The violation may be the failure or refusal to perform or complete a job, make a full or partial payment for an agreed good or service, or substitute an item for the agreed.
Defamation. Section 423 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code describes this as a false statement made or spread as true and, as a consequence, injures the reputation, status, credit, and overall welfare and credibility of the person as the target of the statement.
Personal Injury. In Thailand, this can be a cause for civil action when someone deliberately or by negligence injures another’s both, liberty, right, or property. If proven, the court will order the person responsible to compensate for the injury, damage, or loss. If the victim is a foreigner who is under Thai jurisdiction, his or her being a foreigner becomes a factor and the Conflict of Laws Acts becomes operable.
Real Estate Disputes. These have become common situations as more and more foreigners purchase property in Thailand. Frequent causes of disputes are language barriers, unlawful procedures in the conduct of purchase, or dishonest acts on the part of the seller. And the Consumer Protection Board reported increasing disputes and complaints against real estate development companies have been increasing. These include misleading announcements, inferior workmanship and goods, and construction delay.
Employment Controversies. An employee may file for action in case of illegal dismissal or deprivation of severance compensation, according to Thai labor law. The aggrieved employee should first file the complaint with the Labor Relations Commission, which will first attempt a compromise between the employee and employer. If none can be reached or is impossible, the filing of a labor lawsuit should be resorted to. But because the costs of litigation can be quite high to most employees, alternative forms of resolution to a controversy that cost much less and require less effort and stress are resorted to.
Alternative Dispute Resolution for Civil Actions
This has been historically present in Thailand when disputes occur, as it is natural for Thai people to resolve a conflict amicably. The technique had, however, a limited part in the administration of justice in the kingdom. Its mediation form was confined to small community controversies and implemented without strict or specific rules or guidelines. But since the ASEAN economic crisis, disputes of various kinds increased and could no longer be handled by parties that used to do so for mediation. Without a workable system to manage the disputes, conflicting parties needed to resort to the litigation process. The sheer volume of civil actions sought greatly burdened the courts to near paralysis.
In recent years, however, these two alternate resolution methods have substantially developed as they became more widely accepted and used, especially in the commercial and business sectors. The majority of issues in these sectors center on contracts. Of the two methods, arbitration has been the more applied, so that it may now be said to concur with international standards. An indication is the emergence of new arbitral institutions. It may be safe to say that arbitration has become a promising judicial trend in the kingdom. The only seeming barrier to its rapid development is its uncertain applicability in controversies emanating from administrative contracts. When this issue is eventually and effectively dealt with, the development of arbitration as a method of disputes is expected to be rapid.
Mediation too, on the other hand, has gained momentum as a dispute resolution method. While its current place is mainly court-annexed, it is gradually being applied in other areas while its potential still has to be explored by organizations.
With all the current efforts exerted at exploring the potentials of both methods, their application as major mechanisms in the resolution of disputes in the proximate future in Thailand is clear.
Changes in Appealing Cases in Civil Courts
In review, the three court levels in Thailand are the Courts of First Instance, the Appeals Court, and the Supreme Court. Civil courts fall under the Courts of First Instance. The law allows a party to appeal a decision at the appeals court and, when not satisfied, with the Supreme Court, on points of fact or kaw. The decision of the Supreme Court, called Dika, will be final. The appeal filed at the appeals court should cost at least 50,000. At the Supreme Court, it should have a value of 200.00. No limit is set if the appeal is on a point of law. This appeals system is called a rights-based system, which means that the law recognizes the right of the complainant to ask the Supreme Court to hear his or her case. The rationale of this rights-based system is that Thai law protects the rights of both parties in a case.
As Thailand’s economy further grows, more and more controversies have resulted and clogged the Supreme Court. It now takes more than five long years to secure a judgment from it as ab appeal must go through all three courts and virtually defeats the purpose of obtaining fast justice and maintaining trust in the judicial system. A change came in the form of an amendment to number 237 of the Civil Procedure Code of 2015, which became effective in November of the following year. The Act changed the rights-based system to a permission-based system by Appending Section 244 to the Civil Procedure Code. This addendum states that the judgment or order of the Appeals Court shall be final. It empowers the Supreme Court to permit the filing of a Dika when the question is significant and worthy of such a decision. The validity shifts from the stated value of a dispute to the opinion of the Supreme Court.
Section 249 of the Code lists such worthy and significant matters as:
- those relating to public interest or order
- a question of law that arises from a discrepancy or contradicts a Supreme Court precedent
- a significant question of law, which in its judgment or order, has no Supreme Court precedent
- a judgment or order that is contrary to that of other courts
- raised in order to present a legal interpretation, or
- other questions of significance according to the regulation of the president of the Supreme Court. Questions considered are a dissenting opinion in the decision being appealed and if the decision runs counter to any international agreement to which Thailand has pledged itself.