Although a constitutional monarchy, the majority of Thailand’s laws follows the codification system, a distinct feature among countries governed by civil laws. Here, dispute resolutions are tried at courts of laws with varying levels and jurisdictions. Nonetheless, the highest court in the kingdom is still the Supreme Court. Although not compulsory, lower courts may consult previous decisions arrived at by the Thai Supreme Court in order to gain more appreciation of the cases they are handling.
Civil Courts in Thailand
By ascending order, the lowest level of the civil court system in Thailand is the Court of First Instance (CFI), followed by the Court of Appeals and the topmost is the Supreme Court (Dika).
- Court of First Instance – it is otherwise known as the trial courts in some countries wherein cases are first tried to determine the merits of the case both on facts and on the law. The general court, the juvenile, and the specialized courts comprise the three divisions within this level.
- Court of Appeals – after the appreciation of facts and on the law are heard at the Court of First Instance and still, a party is unsatisfied with the decision, such person or entity can file for an appeal at this level, the second level of the Thai civil court system.
- Supreme Court – most often, cases heard at the highest level of the Thai court system are those with questions on the law and not facts although circumstances may involve both. The Thai Supreme Court also hears appeals from the specialized courts of the Court of First Instance.
Lawsuits and Nationalities
Both Thais and non-Thais can file cases in the Kingdom against natural and juridical entities. Juridical persons may file cases too. If in case the aggrieved party is a foreigner or a foreign juridical person, it can file for a case in Thailand against someone and the natural person may need not to present himself before the court unless otherwise required by the same. A qualified lawyer may file for and represent him instead.
Summons and Petitions
The court can summon a defendant for him to appear before the court but a petition must be made by the complainant first in order to ask the court to issue the same against the former. In cases wherein the defendant is a foreign national or entity, domiciled outside of the Kingdom, the summon must be served indirectly through diplomatic channels. On the other hand, decisions of foreign courts cannot be enforced in Thailand. What a foreign complainant can do is to file a separate case in Thailand with the foreign court decision serving as one of his shreds of evidence before a Thai court.
The Thai language is the official language used in the justice system. Meaning to say, documents and arguments are presented in Thai and not in English. Foreign complainants must also seek the representation of Thai lawyers because foreign attorneys cannot represent a person before the court nor can he file a case on his client’s behalf. A foreign lawyer in Thailand is limited to providing legal inputs and advice.