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Litigation under Thailand contract law is usually the last resort to solve a dispute or enforce a claim. Many parties to a dispute try to avoid a litigation process because they fear the court costs or losing the case. However, sometimes litigation is the only way for a party to obtain relief. Therefore, it is good to know that the Thai civil justice system is generally accessible and unbiased. Also, the time it takes for a judgement to be passed is reasonably fast.
Initiating a litigation case in Thailand could be described as follows:
Before the litigation starts, the creditor’s lawyer should send a written notice to the debtor demanding the outstanding payment and giving a certain period of approximately 14-30 days to comply with such notice. If the debtor is still unwilling to pay, the creditor’s lawyer will prepare a case and submit it to the court of first instance. Thereby the party has to consider that the Thai Civil and Commercial Code (TCCC) prescribes prescription periods (from one month to ten years) within which legal action must be taken. For most commercial contracts, the prescription period runs from two years to five years. Since the distinction of different prescriptions can be difficult, it makes sense to take action earlier rather than later.
After accepting the complaint, the court will schedule the first court hearing date in order to pursue the case. If the defendant or one of his representatives received the plaintiff’s complaint personally, he must submit his answer to the complaint to the court within 15 days. If personal delivery is not possible, the court officer will post the complaint at the defendant’s address. In this case, the defendant must submit his reply within 30 days after the complaint was posted.
If requested by the defendant, the court may set a date for mediation between the plaintiff and the defendant. Such mediation may take place once or twice depending on the result of the negotiation. If the mediation is successful, a formal settlement is established, and the court can close the case.
If the Mediation is not successful, the court will set a date for the formal hearing in which the plaintiff and the defendant may present evidence to the court. The parties must submit a list of witnesses prior to the hearing. It is possible to call evidence from a witness who is not on the evidence list if the court approves it. If a witness does not speak Thai, the party who called the witness must provide an interpreter for that witness. Documentary evidence must be authenticated by a witness. If the document is not in Thai, a certified Thai translation must also be enclosed.
After completion of the regular court proceeding, the judge will then render the judgment based on the evidence presented to the court. The judgement is given in writing and read in court. Time spent pursuing the case in the first instance court is approximately 6-12 months. The case may be elevated to the court of appeal if either the plaintiff or the defendant does not agree with the judgment made by the court of first instance. An appeal must be filed within one month after the judgement. Time spent to continue pursuing the case in the appeal court is approximately 1-2 years. After the final judgment has been rendered in favor of the plaintiff, the plaintiff shall submit it to the Legal Execution Department for enforcement.
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