Understand Domestic Violence in Thailand. Despite the enactment of the new Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act of 2007, it still falls short in providing adequate safeguards for those enduring abuse within their homes, as emphasized by non-governmental organizations. Furthermore, the legislation heavily relies on reconciliation. This is between the abuser and the victim. This is a major factor that contributes minimally to the protection of the victim.
Moreover, data from the Public Health Ministry indicates that over 8,600 women annually experience either sexual violence. This, mainly younger people, or physical violence. Note that this is predominantly in domestic or familial settings. The Injury Prevention Division of the DDC compiled injury statistics from more than 50 hospitals across Thailand. This for the period 2019 – 2021, revealing an annual average of over 8,500 women subjected to physical abuse.
Among these victims, women aged in the range of 20-24 make up over 16% of the victims. With a majority of 60% experiencing physical abuse, often within the confines of their homes. Additionally, young women aged between the ages of 10-14 years of age. They account for more than 31% of the cases of sexual assault. (Bangkok Post, November 2022 – Attacks on women still a major worry)
With COVID-19, it was noted that domestic violence increased. In a survey done in 2001 with more than 1,600 respondents. More than 40% of those interviewed said that they saw an increase in domestic violence among family members. The Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation noted that in 2021 watching 11 online newspapers.
There were just over 370 cases of domestic abuse. Just over 63% were husbands killing wives. Likewise in the next category, just over 65% were boyfriends killing girlfriends. For both groups, 60% was attributed to jealousy while 34% were breakups. Then 43% were murdered by knives, 34% with sharp objects, and 8% were assaulted. (Bangkok Post, June 2023 – Tackling Domestic Violence)
In 2022 there have been several NGOs asking to lighten the load by enacting the following:
There are also ethnic customs that need to be reviewed. This is mainly in the North of Thailand where you will find 13-year-old children getting married. Once they give birth there is difficulty in registering their children. This is mainly because they are still children.
Those who fall under the LGBTQ community also have their issues with domestic abuse. See the article on LGBTQ rights in Thailand for some of these issues.
The term “Domestic Violence” encompasses various actions with the intent to harm the physical, mental, or emotional well-being of any member of the Family. A member of the family is any person who depends on (spouse, ex-spouse, cohabitants, and children) or lives in the same household (adopted children).
This also comprises deliberate actions that could potentially jeopardize the health or safety of individuals in the family unit. Additionally, it involves coercive or manipulative tactics utilizing immoral influence to dictate the actions or inactions of family members or to make them accept wrongful behaviors. It’s important to note that this definition excludes actions resulting from negligence.
Unique Nature of Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence cases are intricate and sensitive. They involve close personal relationships and possess distinct characteristics. This differentiates them from general cases of personal assault.
Need for Victim Protection: Given the specific dynamics of domestic violence. It is considered more appropriate to establish laws that prioritize the protection of victims rather than applying traditional criminal procedures.
Rehabilitation and Deterrence: Laws aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence provide opportunities for offenders. This to reform themselves and serve as a deterrent against future offenses.
Protection of Vulnerable Parties: Children, juveniles, and other individuals within the family. They have a fundamental right to be shielded from violent acts and unfair treatment.
Limited Authority Due to Notification Requirement: One key challenge is that officials can only take measures in domestic violence cases. If there has been a prior notification from the distressed individual who intends to take legal action.
Protection of Personal Information: Concerns are raised regarding the protection of personal information of family members involved in domestic violence cases.
Media Coverage and Violation of Personal Rights: The text also mentions issues related to media coverage of domestic violence cases. This which sometimes result in unreasonable violations of personal rights.
Inconsistencies with Human Rights and Constitutional Principles: There are concerns that the legal framework for domestic violence cases might not align with international human rights standards.
Challenges with Officials’ Work Mechanisms: Problems are identified with the working mechanisms of officials, including shortages of personnel. As well as challenges in terms of command and organizational structure within government agencies.
(The views from a Thai legal scholar on domestic violence) The pressing issue addressed by these legal principles. Is the recognition of domestic violence as a severe and deeply ingrained problem within Thai society. This issue has persisted over a significant period and is often perpetuated from one generation to the next. Likewise, resulting in a distressing cycle of violence. The roots of this problem can be traced back to traditional beliefs. Those that have shaped societal norms for a long time.
These traditional beliefs include notions such as “men holding authority and power over women,” “men being regarded as the heads of households and responsible for working outside the home,” and “women being primarily responsible for domestic duties within the home.” Additionally, there is a historical acceptance of corporal punishment as a means of teaching and disciplining children.
In the context of Thai law and societal values. Addressing domestic violence involves not only the enactment of legal measures but also a broader cultural shift. It necessitates challenging and transforming deep-seated beliefs and practices that perpetuate violence within families.
In Section 4, when an individual engages in conduct categorized as Domestic Violence (See above explanation), they are deemed to have committed a domestic violence offense, and they may face a sentence of imprisonment, not surpassing six months, a fine not exceeding six thousand baht, or both penalties.
This offense, as outlined in the first paragraph. Can be subject to compromise but cannot be completely eradicated, as stipulated by the Criminal Code or other relevant laws. If the offense described in the first paragraph pertains to physical assault. This under Section 295 of the Criminal Code, it is specifically an offense that can be resolved through compromise.
Section 295, an individual who inflicts harm, whether physical or psychological, upon another is considered to have committed bodily harm. The prescribed punishment for such an offense includes imprisonment for a maximum period of two years or a fine not exceeding four thousand Baht, or a combination of both penalties.
Likewise in Section 5, it is the responsibility of the domestic violence victim. This as well as any individual who witnesses or becomes aware of such acts. To inform the competent official to enforce this Act. Importantly, when notification to the competent official is made in good faith. It is safeguarded and does not entail any civil, criminal, or administrative liabilities.
Note that Section 6 outlines the various methods by which notification to the Competent official, as specified in Section 5, may be carried out. Likewise, including verbal communication, written reports, telephone calls, electronic means, or any other suitable means.
When the competent official either observes a Domestic Violence incident or receives notification as per Section 5, they are empowered to enter the residence or the location of the incident to conduct interviews with the perpetrator, the victim, or any other individuals present. Additionally, the competent official is authorized to coordinate the provision of medical treatment for the victim of Domestic Violence and seek advice from psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers.
Should the victim of Domestic Violence wish to pursue legal action, they are required to file a complaint following the Criminal Procedure Code. However, if the victim lacks the capacity or opportunity to file the complaint independently, the competent official is authorized to file the complaint on their behalf.
*Note that this section only covers reporting of domestic violence but also the powers of the investigator. They may enter the premises to investigate the complaint and take whatever steps they deem appropriate. The following section in the Domestic Violence Act covers the timeline.
Likewise, Section 7 addresses the timeline for reporting domestic violence incidents. If there is no notification to the competent official as specified in Section 5 or a complaint as outlined in Section 6 within three months from the point at which the victim of domestic violence becomes capable of or has the opportunity to make such a notification or file a complaint with the investigator. The case will be considered time-barred by prescription. However, it’s important to note that this does not forfeit the rights of the victim of domestic violence or any concerned party to request welfare protection under the laws governing the Establishment of Juvenile and Family Court, as well as the procedural laws related to Juvenile and Family cases.
*Note that even though the violent act can prescribe the victim still has the right to lodge a complaint with the courts. In the Western setting, this would involve obtaining a “peace order” or an interdict against the aggressor.
In addition, Section 8 outlines various aspects of the process following the filing of a complaint related to domestic violence:
If a complaint is submitted within the prescribed time limit as specified in Section 7, the competent official is obligated to promptly initiate an investigation. Subsequently, the official must forward the case file, including their opinion, to the prosecutor for the purpose of bringing the case before the Court. This action should occur within forty-eight hours from the time of the arrest of the person responsible for domestic violence. However, if circumstances necessitate an extension beyond this timeframe, a request for postponement can be submitted to the Court, with a maximum of six days allowed per postponement, not exceeding three times.
*Note that the case goes through the same process as other criminal prosecution processes.
If the offense described in Section 4, Paragraph One, aligns with offenses covered by other laws, it shall be prosecuted under Section 4, paragraph 1, in tandem with the offenses under those other laws. The exception is when the offenses under other laws carry a more severe penalty, in which case the case shall be presented to the court with jurisdiction over the offenses under those other laws. The provisions of this Act are to be applied, mutatis mutandis.
*Note on this is as above that this might go beyond domestic violence. A good example is when a person rapes his spouse while using a firearm. There is an example given below where this takes on a different legal process.
Interviewing the Victim: During the process of interviewing the victim of Domestic Violence, the Inquiry Official is responsible for accommodating the presence of a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or any person specifically requested by the victim to participate in the interview and provide guidance.
In emergencies where there is reasonable cause to proceed without waiting for the presence of a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or the person requested by the victim, the Inquiry Official may interview without such individuals. However, the reason for not waiting for their presence must be documented in the case file.
Note that Section 9 addresses the confidentiality of information in cases involving domestic violence:
Upon receiving a notification as per Section 5 or a complaint filed under Section 6, it is prohibited to advertise or publicly disseminate, through any means, photographs, stories, or any other information that could potentially harm the person responsible for domestic violence or the victim of domestic violence in cases governed by this Act.
Individuals who breach the provisions outlined in paragraph one are subject to penalties, including imprisonment for a maximum duration of six months, a fine not exceeding sixty thousand baht, or both penalties, depending on the circumstances of the violation.
Likewise, Section 10 delineates the powers and procedures related to alleviating the suffering of victims of domestic violence:
The Competent official, designated by the Minister and holding a status not lower than that of an administrative officer or senior police officer under the Criminal Procedure Code, is authorized to prescribe temporary measures or methods to alleviate the suffering of domestic violence victims. This authority exists irrespective of whether the victim requests such measures. The Competent official can issue various orders.
Likewise, including mandating medical examination and treatment for the perpetrator. Additionally, requiring the perpetrator to contribute to a Relief Fund according to their status, prohibiting the perpetrator from entering the family’s residence or approaching any Family member, and specifying child care methods.
*The temporary measure as explained is common in the West about obtaining an interdict. Thus prohibiting the perpetrator from entering the home of the victim. The “Relief Fund” is a legal concept in Thailand that is not in use in the West. Note that the court has to authorize this and it needs to be brought before a court within 48 hours.
The interim relief for money into a ‘Relief Fund’ is similar to a divorce where the courts can make an interim financial order for the victim. This is usually done in civil matters and not criminal matters. Note also that this can be done “irrespective of whether the victim requests such measures”.
After issuing the order to prescribe these measures, the competent official must promptly recommend them to the Court within forty-eight hours. If the Court concurs with the prescribed measures, they will remain in effect.
If the Court disagrees with the prescribed measures or if circumstances change, the Court will conduct an inquiry and make a prompt decision. The Court may revise, amend, or revoke the order prescribing measures or methods to alleviate suffering or any other orders, including imposing additional conditions, as deemed necessary based on the facts and circumstances.
Parties affected by the Competent official’s or Court’s orders under this section have the right to appeal in writing within thirty days from the date of notification. The Court’s judgment or order in such matters is considered final.
Failure to comply with the orders issued by the competent official or the Court can result in penalties, including imprisonment for a maximum of three months, a fine not exceeding three thousand baht, or both, depending on the nature of the violation.
Note that Section 11 outlines the authority of the Court during the investigation or legal proceedings in cases of domestic violence:
The Court is vested with the power to issue orders prescribing measures or methods to alleviate suffering as detailed in Section 10. This as well as any other orders deemed appropriate during proceedings.
If the circumstances or situation involving the person responsible for Domestic Violence or the victim of Domestic Violence changes, the Court is authorized to revise, amend, or revoke previously issued orders prescribing measures or methods to alleviate suffering or any other orders. This includes the ability to introduce additional conditions as necessary.
Non-compliance with the Court’s orders may result in penalties, including imprisonment for a maximum of six months, a fine not exceeding six thousand baht, or both, depending on the nature of the violation.
Likewise, Section 12 outlines the authority of the Court when dealing with individuals found guilty of domestic violence under Section 4:
If the Court finds an individual guilty of domestic violence under Section 4, it has the discretion to determine various measures for rehabilitation, treatment, behavior control, compensation for alleviating suffering, public service work, cessation of actions causing domestic violence, or parole. These measures may be imposed instead of traditional punishment for the offender.
In cases where there is a compromise, withdrawal of the complaint or withdrawal of the claim related to the offense under Section 4. The Inquiry Official or the Court, as appropriate, is responsible for recording a preliminary agreement before such actions are carried out. Additionally, the Inquiry Official or the Court is tasked with including the measures outlined in paragraph one as conditions within this recorded agreement.
The opinions of the injured person or family members may also be considered. If the actions specified in the recorded agreement and its conditions are fully fulfilled, then the compromise, withdrawal of the complaint, or withdrawal of the claim related to the offense under Section 4 is permissible. However, if the offender or defendant violates or fails to adhere to the conditions, the Inquiry Official or the Court has the authority to dismiss the case.
The measures and methods stipulated in paragraphs one and two are subject to regulations announced by the Chief Justice of the Central Juvenile and Family Court in the Government Gazette or prescribed by the Minister, as applicable.
Note that Section 13 mandates the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to establish a system to support the implementation and enforcement of the provisions outlined in Section 10, Section 11, and Section 12. This support system is to be developed through the formulation of specific regulations within the Ministerial Regulation.
Note that Section 14 states that the procedural aspects, submission processes, and evidentiary hearings not explicitly outlined in this Act shall follow the guidelines outlined in the law concerning the Establishment of Juvenile and Family Court and the procedural law regarding Juvenile and Family cases. These guidelines are to be applied with necessary adjustments (mutatis mutandis) to suit the context of the Domestic Violence cases governed by this Act.
Likewise, Section 15 outlines the principles and priorities to be considered in Domestic Violence proceedings, regardless of the stage of the proceeding:
The Court’s primary objective is to seek compromise among the parties involved with a focus on achieving peace and co-existence within the family as a top priority.
Ensuring the protection of the rights of the victim of Domestic Violence is a fundamental principle.
The preservation and protection of the marital status of individuals who voluntarily live together as husband and wife are important. If the marital status cannot be maintained, the Court aims to facilitate a fair and minimally damaging divorce process, with a priority on considering the welfare and future of any children involved.
Special attention is given to the protection and support of families, particularly when they are responsible for caring for and providing education to minor family members.
The Court may employ various measures to assist spouses and Family members in living harmoniously and improving their relationships, including those with their children.
Note that Section 16 discusses the process of achieving compromise in domestic violence cases and the role of conciliators:
To facilitate compromise in domestic violence cases (This has been one of the biggest social criticisms of the act). The competent official or the Court may appoint councilors. These councilors can include individuals such as parents, guardians, relatives of the parties involved. This, or anyone considered suitable by the competent official or the Court.
The goal is to provide advice and support during the conciliation process. To help the parties reach a compromise. Alternatively, the competent official or the Court may designate a Social Worker, a social welfare agency, or another individual to assist in the conciliation efforts.
When the assigned conciliator or individual conducts the conciliation process as directed by the competent official or the Court. They are required to report the outcomes of the conciliation to the relevant authority. If a compromise is reached. This person must arrange for the drafting of a compromise agreement or request that the parties enter into such an agreement before the competent official or the Court.
If the Competent official or the Court determines that the compromise agreement does not violate laws, public order, or good morals. They will approve and enforce the compromise agreement as agreed upon by the parties.
Note that Section 17 mandates the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to compile an annual report. This containing information on domestic violence cases. This report should include data on the total number of domestic violence cases. The number of orders issued prescribing measures or methods to alleviate suffering by the competent official and the Court, as well as the number of violations of such orders.
Additionally, it should document the number of compromises reached in these cases. The Ministry is required to present this annual report to the cabinet and parliament once a year for review and evaluation. We can see some of those stats at the beginning of this article.
Likewise, Section 18 designates the Minister of Social Development and Human Security as responsible for overseeing the implementation of this Act. The Minister holds the authority to appoint the competent official. Likewise is empowered to issue Ministerial Regulations and rules to guide the execution of this Act.
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