PHUKET: The introduction of night court sittings to speed the hearing of cases involving domestic and international tourists on Phuket and in other holiday destinations is a welcome idea.
Because of the backlog in the judicial system on Phuket and elsewhere, visitors are often forced to head home before their cases can be heard.
Delays inevitably play into the hands of rip-off merchants and scammers. Tourists accused of petty crime will also be the beneficiaries of a faster system of justice.
People on Phuket have not forgotten the case of the ''Beermat Bandit,'' Aussie mother Annice Smoel, who allegedly souvenired an absorbent cover from a Patong bar top.
Her relatives made such a fuss back in Australia when it appeared she would have to stay on Phuket for an extended period that the case even brought a comment from the then Australian Prime Minister.
When the then Phuket Governor intervened to speed the hearing, the Aussie accepted a guilty verdict and a small fine in order to fly home quickly to her three children.
Yet Thailand was the real victim because its tourism reputation was tainted. "Arrested Aussie Mum Unable to Fly Home to Kids'' is a damaging headline.
If the night court idea takes hold, then it should also be possible to channel other disputes into the court system.
When a jet-ski operator and a customer argue about the cost of damage, it would be better if a fair price was set by a judicial officer rather than the local police.
So many petty claims arise on a daily basis that a fast-track system would certainly help to reduce the damage that delays cause to Thailand's reputation.
Just where the lines will be drawn has yet to be made clear.
Certainly, when it comes to more serious crime, alleged victims are more prepared to come forward if they know that speaking out will not delay their return home.
What has to be kept in mind, though, is that a night court for tourists is a good step, but not the complete answer.
Where energy should be concentrated is in obliterating the scams and rip-offs in the first place.
Thailand will be an even better tourism destination when all transactions are handled fairly and honestly, and there is no need for night courts.