Thailand Tourist Information: A Guide to Laws in Thailand
By Jennifer Patin
11 May 2011
Arrested in Thailand
If you are arrested in Thailand, most foreign Embassies recommend that you contact a consular officer of your home country immediately. A consular officer should be able to recommend a Thailand lawyer for you and may set you up with a translator. Because of jurisdictional limitations, it is difficult for most foreign Embassies to do anything more than this. It is important to remember that even as a tourist of Thailand, you are subject to the laws of the Kingdom of Thailand, unless inside your home-country’s Embassy. Thai officers with the power to arrest will have little sympathy for a plea of ignorance of Thai laws and regulations.
Transfer of Foreign Prisoners
Thailand has treaties with the following countries, among others, regarding the transfer of prisoners: Thailand Denmark Prisoner Exchange Treaty, Israel-Thailand Prisoner Transfer Treaty, Thailand-Nigeria Prisoner Exchange Treaty, Thailand Sweden Criminal Exchange Treaty and the Thailand-United States Criminal Transfer Treaty. However, prison transfers normally involve very serious crimes with long sentences. Transfer of prisoner treaties mean that if a foreigner is sentenced and imprisoned in Thailand, he can be transferred to a prison in his home country. Nearly all of the treaties specify that if the sentence is for a period with a fixed ending date, life imprisonment, and/or applies to a mentally ill person or a juvenile, then the treaty is effective. Most transfer of prisoner treaties are ineffective if the foreigner commits a crime against the Royal family (“lese majeste” crimes), a work of national art, or a crime such as terrorism, which threatens Thailand’s national security. You are not guaranteed a transfer to a prison in your home country even if a transfer of foreign prisoner treaty exists between your country of origin and Thailand; in other words, your home country can decline your transfer despite the treaty.
Certain Crimes Which Carry Life Imprisonment or Death Penalty
Possession with intent to sell more than twenty grams of pure Category I narcotics, such as methamphetamines, amphetamines, and heroin, carries the death penalty or life imprisonment in Thailand (see the Narcotics section for more information on Category I narcotics and related penalties).
Sex crimes such as the following can also be punished by death or life imprisonment: raping a woman or girl resulting in death carries the death penalty; sex with a minor under thirteen years old, whether consensual or not, can carry a sentence of life imprisonment; coercing or threatening a minor between 16-18 years into sexual acts can carry a life imprisonment sentence; using prostitution as a means of income for persons sixteen or older can carry a life imprisonment sentence.
Altering any type of currency to appear more valuable than it actually is can also result in life imprisonment. Life imprisonment and death penalty sentences can only be given to persons eighteen years old or older.
Prison Conditions in Thailand
Prison conditions in Thailand are notoriously bad. Much of the information about Thai prison life for foreigners is found in memoirs, biographies and online blogs. Common problems reported in Thai prisons are overcrowding; poor sleeping conditions, such as mats on concrete floors where prisoners sleep head to toe; and abuse and mistreatment from prison officers and trustees.
Drug Laws of Thailand: Part 1
Drug Laws of Thailand: Part 2
Drug Laws of Thailand: Part 3
Sex Laws in Thailand: Part 1
Sex Laws in Thailand: Part 2
Sex Laws in Thailand: Part 3
Medical Malpractice in Thailand
Foreign Mafia in Thailand
Defrauded in Thailand