Mediation in Thailand was introduced by and is driven by the Court of Justice. The Court has demonstrated that court-annexed mediations have reduced the number cases that proceed to trial in the courts. Mediation is viewed as an appropriate solution for the challenges caused by case backlogs in Thailand. Moreover, once parties realize the benefits and solutions of mediation, they are willing to settle and are satisfied with the process.
Realizing its benefits, mediation is highly promoted by the courts. Most of the trial courts in Thailand have a list of court mediators. The ADR Office regularly provides domestic and international training for court mediators in Bangkok and in the regional courts. In order to overcome some of the constraints of traditional in-person mediation, an online mediation platform is being developed and is expected to launch in 2019.
At first, mediation in the high courts and in criminal cases was more difficult to introduce. However, a successful rate of settlements exist in the high courts. In addition, most trial courts in Thailand now have reconciliation centers to mediate criminal cases.
Mediation programs for special occasions, for example the King’s birthday, and specialized cases, such as labor and intellectual property cases, have been implemented to further promote mediation. Other tools, for example, the return of court fees for settled cases, are also used as an incentive for mediation.
One of the arising challenges in Thailand involves the mediation of environmental cases. Environmental disputes are unique, due to their latent, long-lasting and wide impact, the power imbalance that often exists between the parties, and the complexity of the issues. Traditional court-annexed mediation may not be the best way to manage environmental disputes in Thailand. As the number of environmental cases increases, the courts need judges with the expertise to mediate environmental disputes to cope with the problem. Having court-annexed mediators with this expertise would be a great additional benefit toward the development of mediation in Thailand.
By Parichart Munsgool, Senior Fellow – Thailand, Weinstein International Foundation.