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.