The Problem with Enforcement of a Foreign Judgment in Thailand


As Thailand is not a party to any convention, agreement or treaty for the enforcement of a judgment obtained in a foreign country, it is not bound to enforce foreign judgments. Nevertheless, there are a few precedent cases that have been tested and tried by the Supreme Court, where a foreign judgment may serve as evidence of debt and may be followed provided that such foreign judgment meets certain criteria.

There are no laws in Thailand that directly allow or prohibit the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Therefore, it is generally accepted that a foreign judgment is unenforceable in Thailand.

Despite the absence of such laws, this issue has been dealt with by the Thai courts a few times.

In  a 1918 Supreme Court judgment , the plaintiff tried to enforce a Saigon (Vietnam) Court’s judgment in a Thai court but the case was subsequently dismissed by the Supreme Court for the reasons that:

(a)          the plaintiff did not prove the finality of the case as the defendant was in default in the Saigon Court’s proceeding;

(b)          the plaintiff did not produce evidence of the defendant’s breach of contract.

Various textbooks have since interpreted the Supreme Court’s reasons to say that the principles of reciprocity, obligation and recognition of vested rights are recognised by the Thai courts provided that the foreign court is a competent court of the jurisdiction and the foreign judgment is final and conclusive. It is also a requirement by default that the enforcement of any judgment must not be contrary to Thailand’s public order.

Several decades later, in 2001, the Supreme Court recognised an English court’s judgment for the reasons that:

(a)          the defendant did not object to the jurisdiction of the English court; and

(b)          the defendant did not raise the ground of undue procedure either against the law or public order.

In summary, based on these cases, the basic requirements for a foreign judgment to be admitted as persuasive evidence in Thai courts are:

  • the foreign court is the competent court of jurisdiction;
  • the foreign judgment is final and conclusive; and
  • the foreign judgment must not be contrary to Thailand’s good moral and public order.

What this means for a party seeking to enforce a foreign judgment in Thailand

Despite these Supreme Court cases and the textbook commentaries on the same, we would advise that it is more prudent for a party seeking to enforce a foreign judgment to bring a new action in the Thai court rather than to fully rely on the foreign court judgement even if the judgment meets all the requirements stated above.

However, given the globalised nature of business with the likely involvement of several international parties together with the fact that most of the member states in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have their own internal laws allowing the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgment to varying degrees, Thailand is also considering adopting the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. There is ongoing research and discussion on the amendment of the Thai Civil Procedure Code and the enforcement of a foreign judgment is one of the topics being discussed and seriously considered.

We will keep track of this issue and publish an update once any amendment is made.

If you have any questions or require any additional information, please contact Yodwarat Tedkham, Panwadi Maniwat or the ZICO Law partner you usually deal with:

This alert is for general information only and is not a substitute for legal advice.