The tourist court, under the Pattaya judiciary control, will operate as a “one-stop shop” for tourists seeking justice for scams, theft, conflicts and accidents. Adjudication of cases will be cut to one day for uncomplicated disputes - down from the usual six months, officials promised. Prosecution of felony cases, which normally take months or years, will be cut to a mere week, they claimed.
Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak (2nd right) and Virat Chinvinitkul (2nd left), secretary-general of the Courts of Justice press the button to officially open Thailand’s first “tourist court” aimed at solving minor disputes before visitors leave the country.
Public employees, including interpreters, already have been stationed at the office to take complaints from tourists. Cases may go to court the day after a complaint is filed.
Politicians wasted no time in putting the new court to work, immediately sending justices a complaint lodged by family members of the two Chinese tourists killed in an Aug. 28 speedboat accident off Bali Hai Pier.
The incident, along with a similar speedboat collision that injured 18 South Koreans, resulted in devastating negative publicity in Thailand’s crucial Asian tourism markets. The court is seen as a way to allay concerns about Thai justice. In the case, the two Chinese families are seeking financial compensation for the accident.
“Tourists have a limited amount of time here and regular court processes usually require a longer amount of time,” Virat said. Hence, we have pushed for this court to open as fast as possible to begin tourists’ cases and for tourists to receive justice.”
“I sympathize with tourists for having to face many difficulties, such as scams, crime, accidents, injuries and even death,” Somsak said. “I want to help those tourists receive justice as fast as possible, which is important in helping tourists feel confident and better after a disastrous event.”
Pattaya Chief Justice Apichart Thepnu admitted not all cases will be completed before a visitor is scheduled to leave Thailand, however. In civil cases, “an officer will be appointed to draft a letter to file for a trial in the regular court,” he said. In criminal cases, witness testimony will be taken and advice given so that police and prosecutors have the information they need to complete their work after the tourist leaves town.
“This tourism court is expected to do good and create confidence for tourists,” Apichart said.
The Pattaya tourist court is a test case for a nationwide system. The next court is slated to open in Phuket, with more forums set for Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Bangkok and possibly Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
The Pattaya court is open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 038-252-130-2 ext. 184.