Comparative law and justice/Thailand

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Basic Information[edit]

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, never colonized. Its current leader is Bhumibol Adulyadej.[1] Nearly equalling the size of Spain or Texas, Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world, covering an area of 200,000 square miles. It has about 3,219 km of coastline and its largest shared border is with Burma.[2] When looking at a map of Thailand it looks like the head of an elephant. The south strip of Thailand which makes up the "trunk", is located between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.[3] It lies 15 degrees north of the equator, averaging tropical temperatures anywhere between 66 and 100 degrees farenheit. It is usually hot and humid. Thailand's climate has three seasons: hot, rainy, and cool.[4]

Thailand's population is around 65 million, including such ethnicities as Thai, Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Lao. Bangkok, the capital, is home to 7 million citizens and is very diverse.[5] The major religious denomination is Buddhist 94.6%, which is the official religion of Thailand. Other religions include Muslim 4.6% and Christian 0.7%.[6]. Thai is the official language, but English is spoken and understood by many of its citizens.[7]

The currency of Thailand is the Thai baht, which comes in both coin and paper forms.[8]. Hotels and accommodations range from luxury hotels to family-run inns. Prices are highest between the months of December and February and lowest between the months of May and August.[9] The phone system includes pay phones and a cell phone network. Thailand Standard time is GMT +7. Thailand does not observe daylight savings. [10]

Flag of Thailand

Brief History[edit]

The Mon, Khmer, and Tai peoples formed tribes all over the area of modern Thailand. The Mon ruled for much of the first millenium and then were displaced by the Khmer Empire in the second millenium. It wasn't until the 13th century when the Lan Na and Suhkothai Kingdoms developed societies in northern and central Thailand.[11] In 1350, Ayuthaya was named the capitol by King Uthorn. It prospered for two centuries. Due to continuous fighting with Burma, Thailand's neighbor and enemy, Ayuthaya was destroyed in the mid-1700's. The Thai managed to reclaim Ayuthaya, but never rebuilt the city and ended up moving the capitol to Thonburi. In 1782 the Thai moved the capitol to Bangkok. During the 19th century Thailand remained independent, obtained the benefits of colonisation, and implemented many Western-based reforms.[12]

From the mid-14th century Thailand existed as a unified kingdom known as "Siam". It wasn't until 1939 that it changed its name to the Kingdom of Thailand. [13].

Economic Development, Health, and Education[edit]

Between 2000 and 2008 Thailand experienced economic growth equalling a growth of 4% each year. Although they too suffered from the 2008-2009 economic downturn, the government is focusing on stimulus programs to revive the domestic infrastructure. As of 2009 the national workforce includes about 38.5 million people, leaving the unemployment rate at 1.5%. Agriculture accounts for 12% of the GDP and employs about 45% of the workforce. The GDP as of 2009 was 540 billion dollars, ranking Thailand at 25th in the world.[14]

The average age of citizens in Thailand are between the ages of 15 and 64, compromising 70% of the population. The birth rate is 13 per 1000 individuals and the death rate is 7 per 1000 individuals. The average life expectancy is 73 years of age, with the median age at 34 years of age.[15]

As of the 2000 census, 92% of the population is literate. Literate is defined by the Thai as 15 years of age or older and able to read. From primary to tertiary the average citizen spends 14 years in school. Thailand spends 4.2% of their GDP on education.[16]

Governance[edit]

The Thai government is similar to that of the United Kingdom. There is a prime minister which serves as the parliamentary government and a hereditary king which serves as head of state. The current Thai government as been around for the past 700 hundred years. The current king is from the family line which has ruled since the fall of the Ayuthaya empire. The king functions as head of state and spiritual leader, but holds no political authority.[17]

In 1932 a revolution de-throwned the current king and created a democracy. In 1946 election were held which voted for and created a bicameral legislation. The real power in the governement is held by the prime minister. Political power is distributed among the parliament by the bureaucracy which is siphoned down to the village level. "Thailand is governed by a system of centralization, with the Constitution as the highest law of the land."[18]

Legislative powers are held by the parliament, and carried out through the bicameral National Assembly. The national assembly publicly elects representatives to the house and senators. The parliament must approve or reject any of the legislation relating to national policy. Once parliament has made a decision, the king must sign the bill for it to officially become a law.[19] There are three ways a bill can be proposed and eventually become a bill. The bill can either be proposed by a member of the Council of Ministers, twenty members of the House of Representatives, or 10,000 citizens who are able to vote.[20]

Judicial powers are excercised through the courts called "law courts." There are three types of these courts, the Court of First Finance, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.[21] The Judiciary is seperate from the Executive Branch of the Thai Government. The cases are not subjected to speculation from the king or the Council of Ministers. The courts rule the cases in accordance with constitution.[22]

Executive powers are vested in the Council of Ministers. The Council is composed of the Prime Minister and 35 Ministers. These ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by the King. The Primine Minister is required by the constitution to be part of the House of Representatives, but cannot serve for more than eight consecutive years. Only the King has powers to remove ministers from the Council of Ministers, but the decision is usually made only by the Prime Minister.[23] The council rules over 15 major ministries. The ministers include; Office of the Prime Minister; the Ministry of Finance ; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ; the Ministry of Defense; the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Transport and Communications; the Ministry of Commerce; the Ministry of Public Health; the Ministry of Science,Technology and Environment ; the Ministry of University Affairs; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare; the Ministry of Industry; and the largest and most powerful, the Interior Ministry.[24]

Elections[edit]

Due to vote buying, corruption, and overall disorganization, the electoral process was redesigned in 1997. Since the creation of the new 1997 constitution, citizens can vote on candidates for the House of Representative and the Senate. Each has its own electoral system. There are 200 senators who serve a single six year term. For the election of senators a multi-member plurality system is used. Each province is regarded as a constituency and holds its own elections. Depending on the number of inhabitants, a province can elect more than one senator. The number of senators per province is determined by a specific formula that tries to achieve a fair representation of the population for each province. Even if more than one senator will be elected, citizens can only cast one vote. The winners are determined by simple majority. Where the provice qualifies for more than one senator, the candidates with the top number of votes are chosen. There are 500 incumbents in the House of Represenatives. The first 100 are elected on the party ticket, and 400 are elected on a consituency basis.[25]

Judicial Review[edit]

Judicial Review is practiced by the Supreme Courts, also called the Dika Courts. The Supreme courts are seperate form the Executive branch and can rule cases independently from pressure of the Prime minister. They rule on the basis of the constitution and in the name of the King. The court has the power to review constitutionality of statutes and rules made by parliament and ordinary courts, and can resolve conflict between state bodies.[26]

Courts and Criminal Law[edit]

There are Four types of courts in Thailand. There is the Courts of Justice, the administrative courts, constitutional courts, and military courts. Thai courts are ruled over by judges and have no juries. Depending on the level and type of court, more judges may be required. A lower court and two appelate courts make up this system.[27] The court of first instance, or the "lower court" is further divided into three sections, the general, family and juvenile, and specialized courts. Two different general courts exists, one for BTangkok which serves as the national court and one for the rest of Thailand. Thailand is divided up by jurisdiction and each one receives a provincial and municipal court. [28] The Family and Juvenile Courts has jurisdiction over any criminal case involving a person between the ages of 7 and 18, and civil cases of any person below 20 and stated in the Civil and Commercial Code.[29] All Specialized courts are located in Bangkok, and appeals from these courts can pass directly to the supreme court passing the appealate level. Specialized courts include the Central Bankruptcy court, the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, the Labor Court, and the Tax and Duty Courts.[30] There are ten total appelate courts in Thailand. One is located in Bangkok and hears appeals from criminal and civil courts, and the nine other regional appellate courts hear appeals form the respective Provincial Court. Three judges are needed to hear an appeal. [31] The Supreme Court is also known as the "Dika" Court. Located in Bangkok, the Dika Court hears appeals from Courts of Appeals and specialized courts. There are between 80 and 90 judges, a president, and vice president. There are 11 divisions, each composed of 3 judges. [32]

Punishment[edit]

There are five types of sanctions that the Kindom of Thailand employs. The Thai criminal justice system imposes fines, the forfeiture of property, sentences of confinement, sentences of imprisonment, and the death sentence. Fines are most often associated with petty crimes. Offenders pay a certain amount of money to the government, similar to the process in the united states. If the fine is not paied, then an order of confinement is issued. When short prison sentences are combined with a fine, the judge may drop the prison sentence and apply the fine only. A sentence of confinement is issued at a period of three months. It is used when a prison sentence of three months is issued, and it is observed that the offender has never been to prison before. Confinement is seen as less severe than imprisonment, and is held at a location different than a prison. Sentences of imprisonment deal with criminal offenders in Thailand. They can range anywhere from one day to life, and are not susceptible to reduction. Only the royal king can pardon a prison inmate. The death sentence is done by means of a shooting squad. Prisoners who receive the death penalty usually have their sentence reduced to life in prison. The death sentence is tailored by Thai law and the United Nations, and over the history of modern Thailand has executed 300 prisoners. Thai courts can also impose probation for an offender. When faced with a sentence between two and five years, an offender of good character may be given probation so that they can work towards re-establishing their good name. [33]

The Thai Department of Corrections is the last phase in the Thai criminal justice system. They are responsible for custody and rehabilitation of the offenders. The department fulfills the following functions: Detainment of individuals 18 years old and above, ensure the rights of prisoners are consistent with law, meet individual needs of the prisoners, provide vocational training, provide a safe enviornment for the prisoners, and cooperate with other criminal justice agencies. The goal of the prison system is to eliminate repeate offenders by creating skillful employees of good health and community acceptance.[34]

The largest percent of the jail population are individuals faceing narcotics law charges. They make up 65.8 percent of the prison population, of those, 75% are male and 25% are female. The next largest population in prison are offenders facing charges of property crimes, making up 19.4% of the population(92% male 8% female). This leads one to believe the greater population of prison inmates are non-violent. The prison in Thailand is currently over populated. Its maximum capacity is 90,000, while the actual number of inmates exceed 250,000. The problem of over population causes the relationship between guards and inmates to deteriote, hindering the goal of rehabilitation.[35]

The Thai criminal justice system does not hold any individual younger than 7 liable for crimes. It also does not charge individuals between the ages of 7 and 14. Individuals between the ages of 7 and 14 can face juveniles procedures which will hopefully allow them to start anew, and not return to a life of crime. The Juvenile and Family courts have jurisdiction and often impose sanctions of rehabilitation, vocational training, and family reunion. Life imprisonment and the death sentence cannot be imposed on youth, neither can sentences be increased due to repeated offences.[36]

Law Enforcement[edit]

The Thai Royal Police Force, a subdivision of the Ministry of Interior, has the responsibility of law enforcement throughout the entire kingdom. The Thai Royal Police Force would also be called in to help in the case of attack against a foreign country to defend their land. The Ministry of Defense would enlist them for service. In this sense they are a para-military police force. The model was first based on the pre world war two model of Japan's law enforcement agency, and later sculpted by american law and aid. Major operational units include the Provincial Police, Border Patrol Police, and metropolitan Police. The Operations of the Thai Royal Police Force are coordinated from the main headquarters located in Bangkok.[37]

Crime Rates and Public Opinion[edit]

Tourists visiting Thailand have the risk of being victim to pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and burglary. Police usually refuse to offer police reports or help to foreigner and refer them to the tourist police. Violent crimes against foreigners are rare but have recently been occuring mor frequently. Foreigners are involved each years in three wheeled taxi accidents and are sometimes charged unfair rates. Tourists are usually scammed when buying gems. "The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) receives over 1,000 complaints each year from visitors who have been cheated on gem purchases."[38] Some bars and entertainment venues charge excessive fees for drinks or surprise you before you leave with hidden cover charges and threatn violence if you refuse to pay. There are erractic reports of people being drugged at bars and robbed by people posing as international travelers. Pirated merchandise is also widely available in Thailand, it is illegal to buy and sell pirated goods, and is often controlled by organized crime networks.[39] A common type of crime against foreigners in Thailand occur in a snatch and grab style manner. Often a passenger in a motorcycle or scooter will grab the purse or bag of the victim as the driver drives by. Also tourists have reported thefts of credit card and passport identity thefts. There are reports of well organized credit fraud rings with ties to international connections. These criminals will use devices to grab credit card numbers and debit pins from the cards as they are used by tourists to make purchases. [40]

Rights[edit]

Family Law[edit]

Men and woman are only eligible for marriage once they reach the age of 17. Even though they can be married at 17, they must have the consent of their parents or guadians until the age of 20. Thai family law forbirds marriages under several circumstances. Men and women cannot marry if they are under the same blood line, or if they are brother and sister of full and half blood. In the case of an adoption, the adopter and adoptee are not allowed to wed. If they are found to, the adoption with be terminated. Men and women are forbid to wed if they are of "unsound mind" or incompetent. Althought Thai law states that a man and woman cannot wed if one of them has another spouse, polygamy is accepted and its practices still exist. Mutual consent is required in writing and to be notarized. Lastly, the Thai Government recognizes marriage that take place outside of Thailand, even if to a foreigner. As long as a Thai gets married in a way that is in accordance to the state or country they are in, it is acceptable. [41]

Marriage is terminated by death, divorce, or cancellation by the court. An annulment can only be granted by the court on these grounds: "(1)The man or woman is under seventeen years old, (2)The marriage is performed on account of mistaken identity by either spouse, (3)The marriage is performed on account of fraud by either spouse, (4)The marriage is performed on account of duress by either spouse, whe, without such duress, the marriage would not have taken place, and (5)At the time of marriage, either spouse were a minor and did not receive written consent from their parents."[42] Divorce may be effected by: "(1)Mutual consent which is made in writing, certified by signatures of at least two witnesses, and evidence by the resitration of written agreement at the office of District Officer, (2)Judgement of the Court."[43]

Human Rights[edit]

Human rights in Thailand include protection against unlawful deprivation of life, politically motivated dissapearances, torture and other cruel or inhumane punishments, unlawful arrest or detention, impropert arrest procedures and unfair treatment while in detention, denial of fair pulic trials, arbirtrary interference into privacy and family matters, excessive force, killings, and many other harms commonly recognized by civilized societies. They can all be found in the 2007 constitution of Thailand. [44] The Constitution of Thailand states in section 30 that, "All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law. Men and women shall enjoy equal rights. Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of the difference in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education or constitutionally political view, shall not be permitted. Measures determined by the State in order to eliminate obstacle to or to promote persons’ ability to exercise their rights and liberties as other persons shall not be deemed as unjust discrimination under paragraph three." It also states in Section 31 that, "All Members of the armed forces or the police force, Government officials, other officials of the State and officers or employees of State agencies shall enjoy the same rights and liberties under the Constitution as those enjoyed by other persons, unless such enjoyment is restricted by law or rule issued by virtue of the law specifically enacted in regard to politics, efficiency, disciplines or ethics."[45] Although stated in the Thai Constitution that all people are treated equal it is clear that some groups are treated better and worse than others. Refugees, prisoners, and insurgents do not share the same amount of protection or fairness in treatment in the Thai legal system. Refugess are deported in large number, prisoners are subject to overcrowding and poor living conditions, and insurgents are often killed without question. The military, security forces, and Thai Royal Family receive more protection. The military seeed to be given an amp in their power in 2008 when the "Act on Internal Security of 2008 came into force in February, giving the Thai military and security forces sweeping powers concerning internal security, including the power to “prevent, suppress, suspend, inhibit, and overcome or mitigate the situation." The Thai Royal Family enjoy the lese-majeste law, prohibiting any law or act which defames, insults, or threatens the royal family.[46]

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