The Judicial Power in Pattaya

A hard talk with the Pattaya Chief Justice The constitutional doctrine to separate sovereign power to maintain the equilibrium in the Kingdom has consistently existed since our first westernized constitution in 1932. We had a great privilege to have an interview with the former Chief Justice of Pattaya Court, Her Honor Pratum- porn Kamnerdrit who would provide us with the precise explanation.

Solicitor Ponthep, Her Honor Pratumporn Kamnerdrit and Mr. Barry Kenyon

“Sovereign power belongs to all Thai people” was her prelude to all of us. “The King exercises the sovereign power by three channels, namely, executive power by the cabinet with a prime minister as a chief, legislative power by a parliament with a house speaker as a chief and judicial power with the judicial president”. Barry Kenyon who has a legal educational background from the UK  could spontaneously comprehend this doctrine which is influenced by Montesquier

Lord Acton enlightens us that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. “In the Kingdom  of Thailand, we adopt a double court system from the continental countries,i.e., France, Germany  and Japan, etc”, the Chief Justice explained into details with her pedagogical ability. We happened to know that she had been working as a university law lecturer before becoming a judge.

“The judicial power is separated into, the Court of Justice with a president of the Supreme Court as a chief, the Administrative Court with a president of the Supreme Administrative Court as a chief and Constitutional Court with a president of the Constitutional Court as a chief”. The double court system is quite different from the UK.”The Court of Justice” has three tiers, namely, Court of First Instance, Appeal Court and Supreme Court. In every province and big city, there is a provincial court, for example, Chonburi Provincial Court and Pattaya Provincial Court. In Pattaya, all civil and criminal cases are tried by Pattaya Provincial Court except family and juvenile cases which must be tried by the Family and Juvenile Court in Chonburi. The Appeal Court is mainly in Bangkok and also each region, for example, there is the Appeal Court in Rayong Province with the jurisdiction for the eastern region for both civil and criminal cases. The party who is not satisfied with a judgment may file the appeal to the higher court under the conditions specified by the law. The Supreme Court is only in Bangkok for both civil and criminal cases” “How many cases are there in Pattaya in each”” Barry Kenyon raised the question with the curiosity. “4,000 civil cases and 7,000 to 8,000 criminal cases”, the Chief Justice replied. To be or not to be a hard work for all judges in Pattaya Court became the question in our minds. “We solve the problem by an alternative dispute resolution” was the spontaneous reply ofthe Chief Justice “by the policy of reconciliation we have mediators from many respected persons in a community”.

“Delay of Justice is Denial of Justice” should not be the question anymore inPattaya by this policy. “However, if the mediation cannot be mutually reached, the dispute must be solved by the formal judicial process with the consecutive hearings which will be one to two years”. As a multicultural society, Pattaya Court of Justice is quite unique. “Are foreigners under equal access to justice in Thai court” is the candid and common question in the minds of many foreigners. “Foreigners are always equal to Thai nationals in the court of law” was the affirmation of the Chief Justice,

“The main problem for foreigners is a linguistic barrier because the law requires that all process must be made in the Thai language. We arrange for a pro bono or free qualified translator for a criminal case. But for a civil case, you have to arrange for a translator by yourself”. The Chief Judge added that most of the judges in Pattaya Court of Justice have the additional overseas graduate education. The judicial power is independent without any intervention from the executive power. All judges will be appointed by His Majesty the King from the judicial apprentices who can pass the highly demanding examination.

There is no jury in Thai courts. “Judge” is a revered profession exercising the judicial power under the name of His Majesty the King who is deemed a “Fountain of Justice” for all subjects in this Kingdom of Justice regardless of race, nationality, religion culture or political band. Section 4.- of our draft constitution 2007, acknowledges a dignity of all persons to enjoy rights, freedom and equality under the Thai constitution and international commitments. The term persons definitely mean Thais and foreigners with diversity of background. From March 30,2007, the Chief Justice had been promoted to her new position in Bangkok Criminal Court. One year term in Pattaya seems to be the great reminiscence for the delicate assignment to dispense justice in this multicultural society. In our next article, we will talk about “Secular Humanism” in the Thai Constitution. The constitution is not only in paper but our spirit and soul. We have to develop all issues confronting us to ascertain the unity in the world of diversity. All comments are welcome from either temple goers or atheists or even pagans. It should not be sinful to worship sun and hedonism in Pattaya.