The Major Differences Between Thai And Western Criminal Law

Differences Between Thai And Western Criminal Law

Nothing is more disappointing than having an unexpected event throwing a wrench into your trip to Thailand. Fortunately, with the right knowledge, you can turn the situation around and make the best out of your time in the Land of Smiles. This is why it is essential to learn the differences between Western and Thai criminal law to exercise your rights in case you ever find yourself in a predicament.

The Key Differences Of Thai Criminal Law

Laws differ from country to country and ignorance of the laws is not a valid defense when caught committing an offense, so you must inform yourself of what the differences are and how to best work around them to avoid trouble with law enforcement during your stay. Below is a list of the main areas that might set Thailand apart from your country:

  • Criminal charges may be filed privately
    In contrast to common law countries, cases may be brought directly by aggrieved individuals rather than needing to be referred to the public prosecutor (the Attorney General in Thailand).
  • Defamation is a criminal offense
    Defamation is the spreading of false information or accusations that could hurt someone else’s reputation. Unlike in the West where it is seen as a civil offense, Thailand views it as a criminal one, and depending on the kind of defamation, it is punishable by imprisonment, a fine, or both.

    • There is no jury system
      A jury is a group of sworn witnesses called to hear testimony, reach factual conclusions, and provide an unbiased decision. The hope is that this makes the system more fair by putting the decision in the hands of fellow citizens as opposed to government employees. Thailand does not have this, partly due to the difficulty of finding qualified jurors who have an in-depth knowledge of the law to give impartial judgment over a court case. Instead, every trial is held before a judge or a panel of judges who render both verdict and sentence.
  • Plea-bargaining or pleading guilty does not lead to a lesser charge, though it may mitigate circumstances and sentences
    Plea-bargaining is an agreement whereby a person facing criminal charges agrees to testify against themself in a less serious case to save themself from going to trial for the more serious one. This is not usually done in Thailand, though pleading guilty and putting themselves at the mercy of the court has been known to lessen sentences for the convicted.
  • The death penalty applies to many kinds of offenses
    In Thailand, there are a total of 35 crimes that may result in the imposition of the death penalty, which is a lot more than in the West. The most common ones are treason, premeditated murders, certain crimes involving minors, and most notably, drug-related offenses. Nonetheless, the death penalty is rarely carried out due to royal pardons which is a reduced sentence granted by the King of Thailand on a case-by-case basis. Royal pardons may be given on conditions such as terminal illnesses or upright behavior, giving inmates the opportunity to redeem themselves as they reintegrate into society.
  • Suspects may be held for 48 hours without charge by the police
    Unlike in some Western countries, suspects may be arrested without a court order or an arrest warrant and held for 48 hours. However, suspects will still retain the following rights:

    • The right to remain silent
    • The right to a lawyer before pleading
    • The right to notify a family member or lawyer of the arrest

The Types Of Crimes

Small Crimes

The court may only issue a detention order once, for a maximum duration of 7 days, if the offense entails a criminal sentence of not more than 6 months in jail, a fine not exceeding 500 THB, or both. 

Large Crimes

The court may issue multiple detention orders for crimes where the potential penalty is more than 6 months but less than 10 years in prison, a fine exceeding 500 THB, or both. However, there is a 12-day maximum for each detention order that totals up to 48 days.

Major Crimes

Regardless of the fine, the court may issue multiple detention orders for a maximum of 84 days, each not exceeding 12 days, for crimes carrying a sentence of 10 years in prison or more.

Why Choose Siam Legal To Handle Your Case

When it comes to handling anything related to criminal law, especially in a foreign country, you need the services of a criminal lawyer who has experience in the area and can speak the language. Siam Legal International is a law firm with a team of experienced bilingual attorneys who can help you through any kind of legal difficulty you may find yourself in while traveling or living in Thailand. Contact Siam Legal today.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Siam Legal is an international law firm with experienced lawyers, attorneys, and solicitors both in Thailand law and international law. This Thailand law firm offers comprehensive legal services in Thailand to both local and foreign clients for Litigation such as civil & criminal cases, labor disputes, commercial cases, divorce, adoption, extradition, fraud, and drug cases. Other legal expertise of the law firm varied in cases involving corporate law such as company registration & Thailand BOI, family law, property law, and private investigation.

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