LEGAL ISSUES TO BE AWARE OF


This section is not intended to offer legal advice. In legal matters we recommend you use due diligence in obtaining legal advice.

The following is derived from Expats living here, news articles, Club presentations and other sources.


CRIMES

Persons violating Thai criminal laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Here are some activities that you need to be aware are crimes in Thailand because they would not be crimes in your home country.

REMEMBER you are in Thailand not your home country and you are subject to the laws of Thailand no matter what you may think of them.


Lèse-Majesté 


Section 112 of the Criminal Code states that "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years."

This is a very serious offense and the most common sentence for Thai or foreigner is the full 15 years. 

Also, it appears that those charged with Lèse-Majesté are usually denied bail and will be held in jail as their case goes through the courts, which can be a lengthy process.

Be aware that defacing images of the monarch and his family is such an offense and it includes destroying bank notes bearing the king's image.


Defamation


In many western countries,it is not unusual to make public complaints about a product or service from a business or to make accusations about someone publicly.

In Thailand, doing so can run afoul of Thai defamation laws which can be pursued criminally, civilly, or both. Under the Criminal Code, defamation carries a maximum sentence of one year's imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 20,000 baht, while defamation by publication is punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a fine of up to 200,000 baht.

Although in most western countries, defamation is a civil matter wherein the person who believes they were libeled or defamed can seek monetary redress in civil court. Further, if the statement or accusation is true, this usually is a complete defense.

HOWEVER, it is also a criminal matter and whether civil or criminal, the fact the statement is true IS NOT a defense. If the statement is made in the presence of others, published, or posted online, etc. and it causes harm or embarrassment to someone, whether true or not, it can still be considered defamation.

Usually the person who thinks they were defamed will file a police report. The police may choose to pursue it as a criminal matter, which can result, if convicted, in fines and/or prison sentences. Whether the police choose to pursue the matter or not, the “injured" party can also file suit in civil court.

You may also be unable to leave the country for an extended period of time once a lawsuit has been filed against you.


Computer Crimes Act


The definition of computer crime is so wide, that basically any posted comment or image that’s considered disparaging to a person or entity, could  result in charges being brought against you.

A person who enters false data into a computer system that could cause damage to the public, create panic, or cause harm to public infrastructure, national security, public security or economic security is subject to a maximum five-year jail term and a maximum one hundred thousand baht fine or both.

Therefore, you should think twice before insulting someone online in Thailand – even if it’s ‘just’ on Facebook, Twitter or an internet forum. Also, there have been news articles of persons charged under this Act for simply clicking the "Like" button on social media sites.



CIVIL MATTERS

These matters are usually governed by the Thai Civil Code.  Below are some common issues that present themselves to Expats living in Thailand.


LEGAL REPRESENTATION


Thai nationals (with or without a law degree) can offer legal advice. Many will have "Law Office" or "Legal Service" in their business name.

However, only lawyers accredited with the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand are licensed to give you legal advice and represent you in court. Therefore, you may wish to verify the lawyer you are dealing with is licensed as such.

There are many foreigners, some being lawyers in their home country,  and others have no legal training that operate law offices, offering advice and creating legal documents.

These individuals cannot represent you in court which must always be handled by a Thai national. However, some may be affiliated with a licensed Thai lawyer.

Also, if involved in a real estate deal, use due diligence in obtaining legal representation. Although realtors and developers may have one of their employees or a "recommended" person to draw up the legal documents, prudence would dictate obtaining independent legal representation to protect your interest.


NOTARIAL

SERVICE


Notary services for use in Thailand are often provided by lawyers who have completed a legal training course by the Lawyer’s Council of Thailand. Unlike many countries, there is no separate, distinct ‘notary’ profession.

If you need a notarization for a non-Thai document or for anything that’s used outside of Thailand, you will most likely need to have the documents notarized by your Embassy.


MARRIAGE


A legal marriage in Thailand consists of both parties registering their marriage in person with the local Thai Amphur (Civil Registry Office) - for Pattaya. this is at the Banglamung District Office.

For a foreigner to marry, they will most likely be required to obtain clearance from their Embassy, often referred to as an Affirmation of Freedom to Marry.



WILLS & ONE'S ESTATE

On more than one occasion, the Club has had speaker to talk on the subject of wills and trusts, an item of interest to many that reside in Thailand, especially when they have a Thai spouse, partner, or children. Another item of interest is what happens if one dies in Thailand.

As with most legal matters, you should consult with a qualified Thai attorney in the preparation of a will.

Wills can be written in a language other than Thai. However, a translated copy will be needed to process the will in a Thai court.


A will written in another country may be valid in Thailand, but any provisions or form not consistent with Thai law will not be recognized. The recommendation is to have two wills one for assets located in your home country and another for assets located in Thailand.

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