Understanding Thai sentencing culture

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Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2016
Thesis identifier
  • T14363
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201257489
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Much has been written about the sentencing systems and practices of Western common-law jurisdictions, but little is known about those of Thailand, an Eastern civil-law country. This thesis fills this gap in the literature by identifying key characteristics of Thai sentencing culture and proposing a theory for understanding them. The focus is not on the Penal Code but on Yee-Tok, a judicially self-imposed form of sentencing guidance, the details of which are not publicly available and whose role in sentencing decision-making remains invisible to those beyond the judiciary. My aim is to find out how Yee-Tok works in the pursuit of consistency and accountability in sentencing.The study finds that consistency and accountability are not alien concepts to Thai sentencers. Even though each lower court has a different Yee-Tok, evidence from focus groups of lower court judges appears to suggest that the differences between each Yee-Tok may be limited. In addition to the duty to sentence in accordance with the Penal Code monitored by the higher courts, Thai lower court judges, by convention, are expected to comply with Yee-Tok in their court and to consult their Chief Judge before departing from it. Although there is no statutory obligation to comply with Yee-Tok, this research finds that most judges appear to wish to comply with Yee-Tok. Consistency in sentencing outcomes in each court is achieved due to the compliance of all judges with the Yee-Tok of their court. Accountability in sentencing is understood as the need to ensure that sentencers adhere to judicial custom and observe high moral standards.Three main characteristics of Thai sentencing culture were identified in this research: conformity in sentencing decision-making; the tendency to impose prison sentences relatively frequently; and the lack of demand in the eyes of the judiciary for public accountability in sentencing. These characteristics can be explained by a theory based on two conceptual building blocks: the judicial structure of a career judiciary; and Thailand's political, social and cultural context.This study seeks to understand Thai sentencing. However, the findings also have implications for the fields of comparative criminal justice, comparative law and comparative judicial studies.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2016
Former identifier
  • 9912533069802996