Thailand Extradition Treaty and Proceedings
With the international treaty, law enforcement can extend across national boundaries. Those who allegedly violate the laws in one country can be extradited to another country and face trials.
The term extradition refers to the legal process of surrendering a suspected criminal or fugitive to the legal system of another country for the purposes of juridical proceedings or serving a sentence. While it is true that the majority of countries have entered into extradition treaties with the governments of several other countries, none of them have signed the treaty with every other country.
For a long time, Thailand has been one of the places where foreign fugitives flee in order to lay low and avoid apprehension. This may be due to the low cost of living, open-arms policy, corruption issues, and under-resourced legal authorities. The country requires an effective extradition regime to govern the transnational process. In Thailand, extradition cases follow the provisions outlined in the Extradition Act B.E. 2551.
The matter concerning extradition is far from simple as there is more than one country and legal system involved. Some cases can be fraught with political tension and the treaty does not guarantee the smooth sailing of the process. For any foreigners in Thailand who are facing or could face extradition, having an experienced and qualified lawyer is a necessary measure.
Countries Having an Extradition Agreement with Thailand
Thailand joined forces with many countries to arrange for mutual legal assistance. At present, Thailand has committed extradition treaties with 15 countries which are:
- The United States of America
- The United Kingdom
- The Republic of China
- South Korea
- The Philippines
However, this does not mean Thailand will deny extradition requests from countries that are not listed above. In the past, Thai authorities have surrendered and dispatched fugitives to other states that have not signed the treaty with the Kingdom. This is because, with the principle of “double criminality” recognized by Thai law, the accused is extraditable if the crime committed is punishable in both Thailand and the requesting state. Therefore, Thai authorities may agree to transfer the convict to a foreign state without the extradition treaty signed.
The Law Governing Extradition in Thailand
Extradition Act B.E. 2551 provides guidance in governing extradition cases in Thailand. While other criminal charges may be based on Criminal Code or other relevant laws, the cases that involve extradition will be determined by Extradition Act and the individual treaty agreed upon between countries. For instance, if the US authority issues a request to Thailand for the extradition of a fugitive, the applicable sources of law will be the current Extradition Act and the US-Thai Extradition Treaty.
The details outlined in each treaty may be different, but most contain similar fundamental provisions including conditions in which an extradition request is accepted or refused. In an event where a treaty does not exist, the Thai Extradition Act shall apply.
Offenses Qualified for Extradition
According to Thailand’s Extradition Act B.E. 2551, certain crimes are eligible for extradition. These include the followings:
- Crimes punishable by the death sentence
- Crimes punishable by imprisonment and other forms of confinement that deprives an individual of his or her liberty for a period of one year or more
The offenses must be indictable both in Thailand and the requesting state.
Nonetheless, the negotiation and implication of the extradition also depend on the individual treaty signed between the two nations. In certain circumstances, the extradition may be denied. For instance, some countries may refuse to extradite the accused if the crime is politically related or if the retribution that will be imposed by the requesting state involves extreme punishment or torture. Furthermore, some nations will claim jurisdiction and decline the request to extradite their own people.
Under Thai law, the extradition request must meet certain criteria for the extradition to take place.
According to Section 9 of the Extradition Act, the Thai government may surrender an accused or a criminal to the requesting state to receive trials or punishment under the following conditions:
- The offense must be qualified for extradition under Thai laws.
- The accused must not be charged with political crimes.
- The nature of the crime must not be solely related to the military.
- The extradition shall not violate any other laws enforced in the Kingdom.
- There is no final ruling from the requesting state that the individual involved is innocent.
- The individual has not been granted amnesty in the requesting state.
- The individual has not served sentences or received the penalty in the requesting state.
- The individual is not ineligible to stand trial for the offense charged.
Extradition Procedure in Thailand
Referring to Section 8 of the Extradition Act, "The extradition shall commence with an extradition request from the Requesting State."
For the countries that signed an extradition treaty with Thailand, the request shall be communicated to the Attorney General. On the other hand, countries that have no extradition treaty with the Kingdom shall submit their request through normal diplomatic channels. In addition, all of the supplementary documents and evidence together with the request must conform to the guidelines stipulated in the Thai Ministerial Regulation.
Upon arresting the individual requested for extradition, the court shall conduct the hearings incessantly and without delay. Such individuals shall be represented by a lawyer either appointed by himself/herself or the court.
If the extradition is successful in which all underlying conditions are met, the custody of the accused will be transferred to the law enforcement authority of the requesting state.
It is crucial to engage a team of lawyers in Thailand who is well-versed in extradition cases and relevant laws as legal procedures for extradition are different from normal criminal proceedings. Furthermore, this complex process involves the attempt to reconcile the legal and diplomatic affairs between two countries in order to conclude the extradition request.
The lawyers at Siam Legal have wealth of experience and considerable success in dealing with extradition-related trials. We can support you with both requests to extradite the foreigner to a different country or the process to transfer a Thai defendant back to the Kingdom. An extradition case is a time-sensitive matter that requires specialized knowledge and swift action. Please contact us for advice at your earliest opportunity.
What is the relevant thai law that provides for extradition?
The Extradition Act 2551 (C.E. 2008) now applies to all extradition proceedings from Thailand. This Act repeals and replaces the Extradition Act 2472 (C.E. 1929). It must be noted that the Act is subject to the provisions of any treaties concerning extradition between the government of Thailand or any other international agency.
Which countries have extradition treaties with Thailand?
Currently, the following countries have extradition treaties with Thailand: the US, the UK, Canada, China, Belgium, The Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, South Korea, Bangladesh, Fiji, and Australia.
What makes offences extraditable?
Generally, offences which are considered by both the country requesting extradition and Thailand to be:
- A crime punishable by death, or
- A crime punishable by imprisonment of one year or more
Extradition for less serious offences will also be considered if they relate to the commission of serious offences as defined above. Note that individual extradition treaties may also provide a list of specific crimes that are considered extraditable, e.g. the Treaty between the UK and Thailand concerning the "extradition of fugitive criminals."
Can extradition be made for inchoate offences?
Extradition can generally be made for offences such as incitement, conspiracy, attempt etc.
What are the conditions for extradition?
Extradition will generally only be granted if the following conditions are met:
- The extradition would not be otherwise contrary to Thai law
- The offense is not political in nature: The definition of political does not include the murder of, or wilful crime (or any attempts of such crimes) against the safety of a Head of State or their families
- The offense is not exclusively military in nature
- There is no final judgement from a court in the requesting country finding the person who is the subject of the extradition request innocent of the offence; that such person has already served punishment for the offence; that such person is in no other way precluded from prosecution for the offence; that such person has been granted amnesty from prosecution
Can a country that has no extradition treaty request extradition?
Under the principle of reciprocity in extradition, requests for extradition may be made by states which have no treaty of extradition with Thailand, but such states must clearly express a commitment to grant extradition of fugitives required by Thailand in a similar manner when requested. This being the case, extradition requests will usually be considered from states with no formal treaty on an ad hoc basis.
What is the procedure for a request for extradition?
In the event the requesting country is a party to an extradition treaty with Thailand, the request is submitted to directly to the Attorney General. If no treaty exists, the request must be submitted through diplomatic channels to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who will examine the request to ensure it will not adversely affect relations between the two countries. If they believe this to be the case, they will submit the request to the Attorney General. Assuming there are no deficiencies in the request, the Attorney General will instruct a Public Prosecutor to issue an arrest warrant. Upon arrest, a formal action in court will be commenced.
What must a request for extradition contain?
Since Thailand, like most other States when issued with a request for extradition, will make an arrest on the basis that a warrant has been issued in the requesting country, such a warrant should set out (if possible) all the offences for which the subject of the extradition is wanted. Where a defendant has attended court but has subsequently failed to attend and a warrant of arrest is issued, either the original or a certified copy of the warrant (or the judgment of the Court, if the defendant has been convicted) may be used.
The following information should also be included in a request for provisional arrest extradition:
- Statement of facts: Usually a very brief summary of facts in order to satisfy a judge that the conduct alleged amounts to an extradition crime
- Statement of law: At the preliminary stage all that is set out is the offence and the maximum penalty. No more is needed at this stage, since details will be provided in a later formal request
- Particulars of identity: Evidence establishing that the person sought is the person to whom the arrest warrant refers; any information which will assist with identification, e.g. photographs, fingerprints (if available), and information regarding the address or area where the person sought might be located
If you have questions related to extradition request in Thailand, feel free to contact us.