Criminal and Civil Cases in Thailand

Like any other country, Thailand has a judicial system that operates in accordance with the law. If you find yourself in the midst of criminal litigation, a qualified local lawyer can help you work the process to your advantage.

In the case of civil litigation, cases may be filed in the court where the cause of action arises or where the plaintiff resides. In addition to Provincial Courts, the Kingdom has seven Kweang courts which deal with small matters and petty crimes.


The court system in Thailand consists of the courts of first instance, the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme (Dika) Court. Courts of first instance include general courts, juvenile and family courts, and specialized courts.

Cases are considered by a judge, not by a jury. The burden of proof for a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that the police and prosecutor have a heavy burden to prove a defendant’s guilt.

Civil actions are lawsuits filed for the enforcement or protection of rights, prevention and redress of wrongs. While Thailand is not a common law jurisdiction, precedents set by the Supreme Court are widely followed by lower courts.


While Thailand is a vibrant economy, companies can sometimes run afoul of its laws and find themselves facing criminal litigation. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to understand the judicial system in Thailand so you can be well prepared.

Generally speaking, it is the court in the district where an offence has been committed, alleged or believed to have been committed that has jurisdiction over a criminal case. The same applies to civil cases.

The judicial system in Thailand includes Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can reaffirm, dismiss or reverse a lower court’s decision.

Defendant’s burden of proof

As in most countries, the burden of proof in a criminal case is proof beyond reasonable doubt. The burden of proof in a civil dispute is more modest, often requiring only a preponderance of evidence to prove a point.

In the case of defamation, a party must be proved to have been unfairly and falsely harmed in their reputation, credit, earnings or prosperity. In Thailand, a civil lawsuit can also be filed for breach of contract.

Suspects in Thailand have the right to be accompanied by a trusted person, preferably their lawyer, during police interrogations. They may also refuse to make a statement.

Plea bargaining

Although many people may view plea bargains as an unfair shortcut that denies defendants their right to a fair trial, they are nevertheless firmly entrenched in Thailand’s justice system. The key is to work with a skilled and experienced local attorney from the start of your case so that you have an accurate picture of what to expect.

The judge will then hold a preliminary “investigative” hearing to determine whether the case has sufficient merit to proceed to trial. In the meantime, the police and prosecution will build their case against you.

Deferred adjudication programs typically require that the defendant not commit any additional crimes while they are on probation. In addition, they must also participate in community service or counseling.

Pre-trial hearings

Once the police complete their investigation, the public prosecutor will review the file and determine whether to bring the defendant to trial. Any person who has suffered injury from the offense can become a co-plaintiff in the case.

If the court decides to proceed with the trial, a preliminary hearing will be held. The defendant can request witnesses and pieces of evidence to be inspected and examined by the defense attorney.

It is important for a defendant to have the support and expertise of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. This is because the consequences of a guilty or not guilty plea in Thailand can be severe.


In Thai criminal law, it is necessary for a complaint to pass through the police and prosecutors before reaching trial. A court will hold a preliminary "investigative" hearing to determine whether the case has sufficient merit. A judge will decide the case based on a preponderance of evidence. All trials in Thailand are conducted in the native language and all documents must be original, with certain limited exceptions.

The courts in Thailand have broad discretion, and there is no jury system. However, Supreme Court decisions do have significant influence on the lower courts. In addition, the Thai legal system does not allow for plea-bargaining or pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

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