There are three Arbitration Institutes operating and administering arbitral proceedings in Thailand. The International Court of Arbitration is an organization for the resolution of international commercial disputes that operates under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). ICC arbitral proceedings are governed by internal rules, which apply to all ICC proceedings globally.
The Thailand Arbitration Center (THAC) is an alternative dispute resolution organization, which offers arbitration and mediation services for cross-border disputes. It was established in Thailand and commenced its operation in 2015.
Finally, the Thai Arbitration Institute (TAI) was established locally in Thailand, to promote and develop arbitration as a dispute settlement mechanism for civil and commercial matters.
In January 2017, a much-awaited set of rules came into force. The 2017 Rules brought about substantial changes in how arbitration in Thailand is conducted. The main objectives of the legislation were to improve the efficiency and consistency of arbitration administered by the TAI. Many procedural omissions were addressed to avoid incongruity in judicial interpretation.
Among the amendments, the Power to Grant Interim Measures was introduced (Article 39), and arbitral tribunals were conferred the right to exercise discretionary powers. Under the Arbitration Act 2002, a plaintiff was only entitled to petition the Court. As of January 2017, parties can petition a tribunal directly, and those tribunals may now grant relief.
Article 13 of the 2017 Rules illustrates a new and more efficient procedure for the consolidation of correlated arbitrations arising from multiple contracts. The rationale behind this revision is that increased efficiency, improved time and cost-effectiveness are achieved by consolidating several court orders in a single hearing, and that inconsistencies, which occur when facts are presented to different tribunals, can be prevented. This article grants the tribunal rather wide discretion and represents a legislation milestone in Thailand.
Other important amendments to the 2003 Rules are:
✓ Challenge to Appointment of Arbitrators: Whereas previously the law only allowed submission of challenges to the Thai Courts, the 2017 Rules empower the arbitral tribunal to have general jurisdiction, unless the TAI deems it appropriate to appoint an arbitrator to rule on the challenge.
✓ Procedural Timetable: The arbitral tribunal, after having consulted with the parties, will have to determine the procedural timetable no later than 30 days after having appointed the last arbitrator, and the trials may last no longer than 180 days.
✓ Service by Email: Electronic correspondence, as well as any other means of communication with record of delivery, are deemed as suitable as hard-copy documents by this legislation.
✓ Sole Arbitrator by Default: Unless otherwise agreed-upon in writing, it is assumed, by default, that the number of arbitrators to be appointed is one.
✓ Language: Unless otherwise agreed-upon in writing, the language of an arbitration agreement is, by default, the language of the contract.
✓ Confidentiality: The confidentiality of arbitrations is not to be assumed but rather explicitly stated in the 2017 Rules.
Further amendments were introduced by the Arbitration Act (No.2) in 2019, which now allows foreign arbitrators and counsel to perform their duties in arbitration proceedings in Thailand, as well as simplifying the process for these foreign nationals to obtain work permits so that they can act in these proceedings. Previously, the complex permit procedures disincentivized foreign arbitrators from accepting appointment in Thai proceedings. The amendments are a welcome progression in Thailand’s aim to become a global hub for arbitration proceedings.