ICJ addresses access to justice in Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Thai government must ensure that measures taken with the purpose of containing the COVID-19 pandemic do not impede access to justice and the operation of the courts, the ICJ said in a briefing paper issued today.

This briefing paper examines impairments to judicial functioning in Thailand as a result of the pandemic and responses to it, such as the suspension and postponement of certain cases, the reduction of physical operations, the consequences of postponement of cases, changes in the modality of hearings including by using video-conferencing, the public hearings and the right to a lawyer.

The ICJ’s findings will form the basis for an online panel discussion on the impact of Covid-19 on the Thai judiciary jointly convened by the ICJ and Chiang Mai University on 21 October.

The ICJ has proposed a series of recommendations to assist the Thai judiciary with meeting their obligations during the pandemic, such as considering certain type of cases as ‘urgent’ so they can neither be postponed nor suspended; ensuring all parties give their free and fully informed consent to the use of videoconferencing in any given judicial proceedings; and ensuring publicity of hearings and access to a lawyer, including during online hearings.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thai judiciary suspended and postponed most hearings with some listed as exceptions. Nevertheless, whenever the incidences of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases have decreased, Thai courts have tried to return to normal operation.

After May 2021, due to the severity of the virus outbreak, Thai judges decide to resort to ‘virtual justice’ by relying more on alternative electronic means – i.e., videoconferencing, as an alternative to physical hearings.

Panel Discussion

The online panel discussion titled “COVID-19 and Its Impact on Functioning of Courts in Thailand” will take place in the context of a webinar jointly convened by the ICJ, Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Law and Chiang Mai University’s Legal research and Development Center on 21 October 2021.

Opening remarks will be delivered by Dr. Giuseppe Busini, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Thailand and Asst. Prof. Dr. Nuthamon Kongcharoe, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Chiang Mai University.

The webinar will include as panelists:

  • Justice Alfred Mavedzenge, Coordinator of Centre for Independence of Judges & Lawyers, ICJ;
  • Weerapatr Chairatt, Judge of the Office of the President of the Supreme Court;
  • Chantima Thanasawangkul, Deputy Director General, Department of Civil Rights Protection and Legal Aid, Office of the Attorney General;
  • Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, Lawyer and Executive Director, Community Resources Centre Foundation; and
  • Wannaphat Jenroumjit, Graduate Student, Faculty of Law, Chiang Mai University

Legal Brief in English and Thai.

Explainer Video on “The Courts and COVID-19”, which will be screened at the event, is available in English and Thai.

Further reading

ICJ Guidance on the Courts and COVID-19

Global Guidance on the Use of Videoconferencing in Judicial Proceedings

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