There has been a good deal of optimism in some sections of the media about the impact of the recently-established Pattaya tourist court. In fact, the term “court” is something of a misnomer.
The new office, housing a foreigners’ legal advisory service, opened in the Jomtien courthouse premises on September 5. The general idea is to help scrutinize the role of tourism operators in providing fair service for tourists, especially those who will be returning soon to their home countries.
The Pattaya structure is a pilot at this stage with plans to extend it to other tourist cities later, notably Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and Phuket. It was the brainchild of the sports and tourism ministry which was concerned about the rising number of scams and crimes committed against international visitors.
Although there is a perception that the so-called tourist court is sitting nightly to sort out tourist complaints and hand down sentences to villains, that is simply untrue. What is available at the moment is a legal advisory service, for civil and criminal matters, on courthouse premises which is open during normal office hours, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
If foreigners wish to raise a concern officially, they still need first to obtain a report from a police station and also take to the Jomtien courthouse any other documentary evidence, relevant photographs or witnesses in support. The tourist court will then offer mediation, particularly in consumer affairs disputes, and the speed of any settlement depends on both parties cooperating. For example, in a Jet Ski civil dispute about the cost of repairs, the court would want to hear from both sides. Where the matter is not resolved by the time the foreigner leaves Thailand, the court will let them know the result later. If there is no agreement, the matter may be passed to the regular court for definitive judgment.
The new court is not able to hear serious criminal cases, but will pass on any foreigners’ statements to the regular court. Thus the recent case in which two Chinese citizens died after a speedboat accident, the driver in question will be tried in the regular court as before. Therefore, the new tourist court concept is not an overarching judicial body but will liaise on occasion with the traditional courts.
Pattaya Today reporters, who have spoken at length to officials, agreed that the Pattaya tourist court structure is in its infancy. But at the moment it is essentially an advisory service which will attempt to mediate an agreement between the tourist complainant and the alleged perpetrator. However, it is untrue that a way of bypassing the traditional courts has been introduced.
We are reprinting the full text of the official Tourist Protection Section regulations on page 7 of this issue of Pattaya Today.