Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2014, 16:29 GMT

Thailand: Domestic violence; state protection and resources available to victims of domestic abuse

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 20 December 2007
Citation / Document Symbol THA102669.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Thailand: Domestic violence; state protection and resources available to victims of domestic abuse, 20 December 2007, THA102669.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47d6547b23.html [accessed 24 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Background

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006, "[d]omestic violence against women was a significant problem" in Thailand (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). In an article published by the Thai News Service, the Office of Women's Affairs and Family Development reported that, in 2005, the number of victims of domestic violence who were treated at "one-stop service centres at public hospitals" was 11,542 (14 Sept. 2007). From January to September 2007, this number was 14,642 (Thai News Service 14 Sept. 2007). A 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) multi-country study on "ever-partnered" women, (i.e., women who have ever been married, lived with a man, or have a regular sexual partner) found that 41 percent of "ever-partnered" women in Bangkok and 47 percent in Nakhonsawan [a city in northern Thailand] had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner (WHO 2005).

Legislation

Country Reports 2006 indicates that Thailand does not have specific laws addressing domestic violence nor provisions for prosecuting spousal rape (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). However, in June 2007, the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand passed a law criminalizing marital rape (Feminist Majority Foundation 25 June 2007; BBC 21 June 2007). The new law also protects male, homosexual and transgendered victims (Bangkok Post 6 Sept. 2007). The definition of rape has been broadened from a very limited definition to include other forms of forced sex (ibid.). Those found guilty of rape may receive sentences of up to 20 years in prison and a 40,000 baht fine [1.00 Thai baht = 0.03 Canadian dollars (Canada 28 Nov. 2007)] (BBC 21 June 2007).

Also, on 12 November 2007 the Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act came into effect (The Nation 13 Oct. 2007; Bangkok Post 12 Nov. 2007). Under the new law, victims and witnesses of domestic violence have a legal obligation to report it to police (ibid.). The police then have an obligation to pass the case to a prosecutor who, if the victim agrees to press charges, has 48 hours, after arresting the accused, to decide whether or not to take the case to court (ibid.). If convicted, abusers face jail sentences of up to six months and/or a fine of up to 5,000 Thai baht (ibid.), or 6,000 baht (Thai News Service 14 Sept. 2007).

In an article published by the Thai News Service, Sarot Nakbet, of the attorney-general's office, stated:

What's special in [the Domestic Violence Protection Act] is that it provides the opportunity for mental healing for both the abused and abusers. For abusers who carried out the act because they were drunk or under the influence of drugs, officers may ask the court to send them for rehabilitation. It also allows victims and offenders to reconcile in the event that they want to resume the family relationship. (ibid.)

Other legislation under which a victim of domestic violence in Thailand may seek recourse include: the Child Protection Act if the victim is under 18 years of age; and the Criminal Act, in cases where an offence was "committed in a brutal manner that caused serious injury to the victims" (Thai News Service 14 Dec. 2007). Provisions in the Constitution of 1997 may also provide some protection, specifically Section 53, which states that "children, youth and family members shall have the right to be protected by the State against violence and unfair treatment" (Kittayarak 2005, 4).

Thailand has been party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women since 9 August 1985 (UN n.d.).

Police

Although the Domestic Violence law requires police to act to protect victims, several people were cited in an article by the Thai News Service as saying that police attitudes would have to change for the act to be effective (14 Sept. 2007). Chatchawal Suksomjit, deputy chief of the Legal and Litigation Office of the Royal Thai Police, was quoted as saying "[t]he attitudes of police, and their heavy workload, have traditionally discouraged them from following up complaints related to domestic violence. They tend to regard them as personal matters and do not take complaints seriously" (Thai News Service 14 Sept. 2007). In April 2005, Kittipong Kittayarak, a law professor who has received awards in recognition of his work on the advancement of the rights of women (Cornell University n.d.) and who is the Director General of the Department of Probation (Ministry of Justice) presented a paper at the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in which he noted that in reference to domestic violence in Thailand the police are often reluctant to intervene in what they see as "family matters" (Kittayarak 22 Apr. 2005, 10).

In 2005, a restorative justice program pilot project was created to deal with abusive husbands (ibid.). Under the program, police refer husbands accused of domestic violence to a probation officer in lieu of commencing a formal investigation (ibid.). Once the situation is reviewed, the probation officer meets the husband, wife and other family or community members to discuss treatment solutions, which may include any of the following: "attending appropriate treatment programs, regular reporting to probation officer within a specified period of time, providing restitution or rendering community services" (ibid.). The probation officer then informs the police whether or not the conditions were met, at which time, "if the agreed conditions were broken the police may proceed with the criminal process" (ibid.). Initially the program operated in 30 police stations in Bangkok, but was expected to expand into other jurisdictions (ibid.). Further or corroborating information on this program could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Social attitudes

Commenting in the Bangkok Post, Assistant Professor Somchai Preechasinlapakun, dean of the Faculty of Law at Chiang Mai University who has researched the verdicts of Thailand's Supreme Court on cases of rape and domestic violence, expressed his opinion that there is a "gender bias" in the judgements handed down by the courts (Bangkok Post 6 Sept. 2007). He provided examples of cases that demonstrated his point, including cases where men who raped former lovers were acquitted and a case where a woman who killed her abusive husband was convicted (ibid.).

The Social Development and Human Security Ministry was quoted in an article in the Bangkok Post as saying that there were 14,000 documented cases of domestic abuse in 2006 (12 Nov. 2007). The previously mentioned WHO study found that 37 percent of "physically abused" women in Bangkok and 46 percent in Nakhonsawan had never spoken to anyone about the physical violence they suffered from a partner (WHO 2005). In addition, of the women who were physically abused by their partners, only 20 percent in Bangkok and 10 percent in Nakhonsawan ever sought help from formal services (health, police, religious or local leaders, etc.) (ibid.).

Services and shelters

In November 2006, the city of Bangkok invested 50 million baht into a "community power to stop violence" campaign to establish activies against domestic violence (Thai News Service 27 Nov. 2006).

In 2007, the Ministry of Public Health had 104 One Stop Crisis Centres (OSCCs) located in public hospitals throughout Thailand, along with a 1669 emergency hotline (ibid.). In addition, Country Reports 2006 notes that "NGO supported programs included emergency hot lines, temporary shelters, counseling services, and a television program to increase awareness of domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, and other issues involving women" (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Bangkok Post. 12 November 2007. "Welfare Change to Reporting Obligations; New Focus on Protecting Family." (Factiva)
_____. 6 September 2007. "Challenging the System: As the Country's First Comprehensive Study of its Kind, Asst. Prof Somchai Preechasinlapakun's Research on Rape and Domestic Violence Raises Questions on How the Courts Deal With These Crimes." (Factiva)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 21 June 2007. "Thailand Passes Marital Rape Bill." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2007]

Canada. 28 November 2007. Bank of Canada. "Daily Currency Converter." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2007]

Cornell University. N.d. Cornell University Law School. "Spotlight: Kittipong Kittayarak, LL.M. '83." [Accessed 11 Dec. 2007]

Feminist Majority Foundation. 25 June 2007. "New Anti-Rape Law in Thailand." [Accessed 20 Nov. 2007]

Kittayarak, Kittipong. 22 April 2005. "Restorative Justice in Thailand." Paper presented at 11th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. [Accessed 20 Nov. 2007]

The Nation [Bangkok]. 13 October 2007. "Journalists Support Reporting on Abuse." (Factiva)

Thai News Service. 14 September 2007. "Thailand: Police Officer Says Special Teams Needed to Enforce Domestic Violence Law." (Factiva)
_____. 27 November 2006. "Thailand: Ministry Reports Sharp Increase in Incidence of Domestic Violence." (Factiva)

United Nations (UN). N.d. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: States Parties." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2007]

United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Thailand." [Accessed 27 Nov. 2007]

World Health Organization (WHO). 2005. "Fact Sheet: Thailand." WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence Against Women. [Accessed 20 Nov. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI); Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC); Human Rights Watch (HRW); Institute for Population and Social Research; Mohidol University; United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); United Nations Division for the Advancment of Women.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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