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Thai Law Insights

Foreigners in the Thai Courts

Observations of a Legal Practitioner

Prapanpong Chaikhamhan


Many foreigners may feel uncomfortable when appearing before the Thai Courts as they are unfamiliar with Court rules, formalities, language use and the overall environment of the Court.

Foreigners may be concerned about communication or statements given in the Court because Thai law requires that all statements must be given in Thai language. So, miscommunication could occur when foreigners are involved as parties or witnesses in a case.

As a foreigner living in Thailand, it is possible that one may become a party to a Court case or, may be requested or required to appear as a witness in a case. We take this opportunity to provide foreigners with a preview of what they may expect in court and advise them accordingly:

  • Court Rules:
    • Appropriate body language: The judge is representing the King. Thus, we must not cross our arms or legs. We must sit up straight with our feet on the floor. When answering a question, we should make eye contact with the judge.
    • Appropriate tone of voice: When addressing the Court or counsel, we should speak clearly and in a loud enough voice for all to hear. Polite language is required and appreciated.
  • Language & Communication:
  • Using the right persons: Foreigners should find bilingual lawyers and interpreters who can accurately translate Thai and English legal and technical terms, as well as, express the nuances of feelings in both languages.
  • Questions & Answers:
  • Methods and procedures: Foreigners may sometimes feel frustrated when Thai lawyer repeatedly asks the same questions. However, this is the Thai Court's usual procedure and, asking the same questions is a technique that is used by the lawyers of all parties to a case. Some lawyers may use this technique to confuse or disorient a witness. Any foreign witness or party should be aware of the motives behind this technique.

In summary, unless you have appeared in a Thai court before, you would not be familiar with the above issues and misunderstandings could occur. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you select appropriate counsel with whom you can openly and clearly communicate and, who guide you on the right track in preparation for and, through your appearance, in a Thai court.