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Thai Law Insights

Suspended Prosecutions in Thailand - Societal Benefit or Human Rights Abuse?

Watsamon Tan-Eng


Suspended prosecutions are currently gaining widespread usage in the Thai legal system. Used to punish offenders for minor crimes, the application of suspended prosecutions is on a case by case basis and up to the discretion of public prosecutors. Offenders have certain stipulations placed upon them for a certain amount of time; these stipulations can range from mandatory rehabilitation to probation and are determined by public prosecutors in conjunction with the Department of Probation. If offenders follow the rules until the time period concludes then the case is dismissed. However, if violations occur the public prosecutor will advance the case to trial. In Thailand, suspended prosecutions may only be used with the victim's consent. It must be noted that the victim may refuse the use of suspended prosecution but this refusal does not constitute a waiving of their right to press charges.

Suspended prosecutions can be thought of as a tool to deter perpetrators of minor crimes from becoming repeat offenders without the use of overly harsh punishments. Some benefits for both the victim, offender and court system are as follows:

Suspended prosecutions are much less financially cumbersome as opposed to taking a case to trial. This reduced financial burden generally allows more victims to exercise their right to access of justice.

  1. The victim can also generally receive compensation for damages quickly as suspended prosecutions do not require a trial.
  2. Suspended prosecutions lowers the court system's caseload as offenders who do not violate probation do not go to trial.
  3. Offenders are not faced with severe punishments for relatively minor crimes.
  4. Minor crime offenders are still punished but may not face jail time and clog up the already over-filled penal system.

The use of suspended prosecutions is widespread in many legal systems around the world with some notable examples including England and the USA. Different countries tailor their usage of it to the needs of their respective legal systems. In England, suspended prosecution is generally used in cases that have an effect on a large amount of people. Only the highest level of prosecutors and Director of the (Fraud Department) can request the use of suspended prosecutions and is also subject to a mandatory court review. This method of limiting who can dispense suspended prosecution along with oversight from the court system is in direct contrast with Thailand where all levels of public prosecutors may decide its use at their own discretion. The USA on the other hand is quite similar to Thailand in that all levels of public prosecutors may exercise their discretion in deciding the application of suspended prosecutions. The use of suspended prosecution has recently risen sharply, especially in important or high profile cases.

Certain groups of Thai judges view suspended prosecutions in a negative light as they believe it takes away power and authority from courts and instead shifts it to public prosecutors; other commonly cited concerns include violation of the constitution, susceptibility to human rights abuses, and lack of due process. Thai courts also argue that it allows prosecutors to sentence offenders without the oversight and scrutiny court proceedings afford.

In my opinion, the usage of suspended prosecutions for cases involving minor crimes is sufficient to punish and rehabilitate offenders, instead of using overly harsh punishments. However, the arguments raised by the court system do hold water. The advantages and disadvantages of suspended prosecutions must be examined carefully so that all parties can benefit.