Litigation in Thailand
Thailand is a civil law country. Most laws are codified and, unlike common law jurisdictions, the Thai courts are not bound by previous decisions. Stare decisis or compliance with former decisions of the Supreme Court is not mandatory, but in practice, Supreme Court decisions generally have a persuasive effect in the adjudication of disputes.
There is no jury system in Thailand. Cases are decided on the merits of the arguments and evidence submitted by the parties. Alternative dispute resolution is encouraged and settlements reached between the parties are respected by the court. Discovery (aka disclosure) procedures are still an unfamiliar concept in the system and are often difficult to enforce. Actual damages are awarded, but punitive or exemplary damages are rarely awarded. This is often a significant issue in personal injury claims, where compensation is also usually sought for ‘pain and suffering.’ Thai courts are unlikely to award damages in this category.
Thai natural and juridical persons, as well as those domiciled in Thailand, can bring suits against any defendant, assuming the Thai court asserts jurisdiction. Non-nationals and non-domiciled persons and entities can sue defendants deemed legally domiciled in Thailand.
Foreign persons or entities suing in Thailand need not be physically present in the country during the entire course of the suit. A lawyer in Thailand may file suit on the foreigner's behalf, and the foreign litigant may reserve personal appearance only when required by the court to give testimony against the contending party. Jurisdiction is determined by law alone. The venue may be waived or may be subject to the agreement of parties.
The petitioning party is responsible for requesting the court to issue the summons against the respondent. A separate petition must be filed to request the court to serve the complaint and summons to the defendant. A reasonable amount of time is allowed for the service. If the defendant is not domiciled in Thailand, service of summons must be effected through diplomatic channels. Foreign judgements are not enforceable in Thailand. A separate suit needs to be filed, and the foreign judgement is presented as evidence in the new case. In such cases, the court will necessarily examine whether the foreign court which decided the case had jurisdiction and whether the judgement was final.
Like in most countries, the burden of proof in criminal cases like murder or rape is proof beyond reasonable doubt. On the other hand, civil disputes like the breach of contract or rescission require mere preponderance of evidence (aka ‘the balance of probabilities’).
Litigation in Thailand
Thai culture generally has a strong bias towards the amicable resolution of disputes. Thai courts prefer parties to act in a conciliatory way and make good faith efforts to resolve any dispute before court intervention. This is reflected in the common practice of mediation: courts of first instance will generally order the parties to attempt to resolve any dispute between themselves before the hearing of any substantive issues.
Of course, not all disputes can be resolved at this stage and will require court intervention. This is where it becomes critical to have an experienced Thai lawyer in your corner. All pleadings and legal proceedings in Thai courts are conducted in Thai and only qualified Thai lawyers are permitted to conduct litigation in Thai courts.
Our litigation team has the combined experience of thousands of hours negotiating a range of disputes in the Thai courts, from the lower courts through the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. All our litigation lawyers are bi-lingual and can communicate and speak English to a high standard, a skill which lends itself to a significant level of transparency throughout the entire process.
We are experts on Thai law and regularly provide formal advice to clients and lawyers in other jurisdictions on matters of Thai law, particularly the US, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia, including the provision of advice to foreign governments.
In addition, our team contains legal professionals and qualified lawyers from foreign jurisdictions who understand the challenges and are experts in the conduct of cross-border disputes. Our team has conducted some of the most significant and high-value cross-border litigation in recent years between Thailand and foreign jurisdictions and has a profound understanding of the unique issues that are present in this highly specialised area.
Together with our Thai counterparts, our team of foreign legal professionals from the Americas, Europe, and Asia are committed to the provision of impeccable services to our foreign and Thai clientele in the following fields of practice:
- Criminal Law - Fraud, Theft, Serious Assault, Drug Offences, Criminal Negligence, Money Laundering
- Civil Law - Breach of Contract, Debt Collection, Property Disputes
- Family Law - Divorce, Adoption, Child Custody, Child Visitation, Child Repudiation
- Personal Injury – Unlawful Acts (aka Torts), Medical Malpractice
- Labour Disputes
- Intellectual Property Disputes
- Trade Disputes