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Judge but no Jury in Thailand

I've been trying to increase my Thai vocabulary and therefore have been reading up on the Thai law and how it works. Basically the law in Thailand follows the pattern of cival law countries. Unlike a common law country however the decisions made by the court do not develop a body of law unless of course it goes to the supreme court where the interpretation will often become precedent for any cases of a similar matter.

I'm far from a legal expert but what I understand is the court will normally decide judgement based on the precendent of other cases of a similar nature just to be fair. This of course is debated by the lawyers and it's the judge that makes the ruling based on the facts and law.

There are 3 levels of courts in Thailand there is the Trial courts where every case starts, now in Bangkok there are many different trial courts depending on the subject matter and juristiction, such as Civil Court, Criminal Court, Labor Court or Juvenile and Family Court. In regional areas however there would be just one court where everything is handled. It would seem to me that you would get a more fair trial in Bangkok then you would elsewhere since no judge can know the law of every single matter. The next level of court is the court of appeals where you can petition to have your case reheard and then there is the Dika court (Supreme Court) any decisions made at the Supreme court are final!

The most interesting part of the legal system I found was who makes the decisions in all cases, it's the judge. Now based on the crime or subject matter is how many judges sit in on the case. Typically it's only one judge but goes from 2, 4, 6 up to 12 depending on the case. There is no Jury!

Now when I learned there was no Jury this opened up some interesting debate with my Thai friends. Firstly in my mind for small crimes petty theft and drugs blah blah blah one Judge is more than enough. But for something like murder where the person says they didn't do it I don't like the idea that the Judge sits there and not only decides the case but passes the judgement as well. This system opens up a hole can of worms and at least in my mind is too open to corruption. Sure, judges get paid a lot of money but lets say he's a golfing buddy of a local MP who's son has found himself in trouble you don't think some words could be exchanged? I'm not saying this happens at all i'm just looking at the system objectively, my Thai friends at least agreed to me on this one.

So there is no Jury on murder case but let's say that there was, well my Thai friends didn't think think this was a good idea! I was confused as to why until they asked me who would be on the Jury. Well it would be the general public of course called up from those with a drivers license. Would this include truck drivers and taxi drivers they asked? Sure if they didn't have a record! Well I think I answered my own question here after they smiled at me. For the vast majority of Thai's they lack the education and intelligence to be able to make hard decisions and the decisions made by the Jury would inevidably be made by one outspoken person in the group and the rest would follow as sheep. Again your Jury would in fact be less effective and honest than the Judge ruling over the court. I for one wouldn't want a group of uneducated Thai's to be deciding my fate.

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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. He has lived here for over 10 years and speaks reads and writes very good Thai.

6 Responses to Judge but no Jury in Thailand

  1. Milbrath June 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    There may not be a jury, but in most cases, based on the crime, there is financial negotiation.

    It seems drug traffickers, some murderers, and those who can not afford to negotiate, go to prison. Those who can afford it, negotiate. I know a mate who literally bought himself out of a murder wrap in Pattaya.

    Another interesting thing in Thailand is, you always hear about the crime and who committed it, but 99.999% of the time you NEVER hear of the punishment. That is because most of them don’t get punished if they can cash out the right people. Of course not even crime can be bought, like drug trafficking for example, that is the biggest no-no in the Kingdom, but everything else seems to be open for talks.

    • Chris June 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      I find your remark hard to believe, it would take a lot of money to get out of a murder case I mean millions and millions of baht that would be rare and not 99.999% of the time, i know plenty of dipwits who got caught up in minor shit once it get’s to the station your basically stuffed.

      • Robin May 18, 2014 at 10:42 am #

        Quick note here. The going rate to make a murder rap disappear on Phuket is 990,000.00Baht. I personally know of two cases where this was done. Sick is it not?

        • Chris May 18, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

          If I was trying to dodge a murder rap i’d actually think it was a good thing. I’ve seen the news about a Thai man raped and killed several little girls. He got 4 years. That’s sick!

  2. jack June 15, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    An idiot is an idiot educated or not.Glad you have found understanding above the farang cliche about Thai corruption, can you also acknowledge how bent our systems are in Oz and the U.S.A. Court systems are a joke and barely literate people who hold degrees prosper in government and are held up as leaders who are in turn ruled by oligarchs, hmmm it,s the same tho world over.Never ceases to amaze how people travel think they understand a foreign culture and are blinded by a thick veil of ignorance of their own broke system when they return home.
    Intelligence, previledge or qualification doesnot gaurantee leadership or judgement, another predjudice common the world over.
    Agreed a refreshing change of blog.

  3. ChiangMaiGuy June 17, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    justice and ‘settlement’ are two different things – forget the first one in Thailand and as for a jury – yes in principal but would never work here as they could not find ’12 men or women good and true’ and they would all take bribes anyway

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