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Chief Justice Varangkana Sujaritkul: heading for a new post in Bangkok

Phuket's Chief Justice Mediates, and Moves On

Friday, April 2, 2010
A WESTERN tourist and a ladyboy had a disagreement at the Taipan disco in Patong the other night. The ladyboy hit the tourist with a beer bottle. In normal circumstances, such a falling out could have left them both in trouble.

However, at the local Kathu police station, an officer mediated the dispute and after an hour, the matter was settled. Such is the modern way of resolving disputes on Phuket.

Mediation in minor cases involving tourists is seen as a more practical alternative to the seizure of passports and a potentially long, drawn-out wait for a court case.

That kind of delay in the past has proved expensive and imposed penalties on tourists that exceeded the nature of the initial offence.

The architect of mediation, now being used to produce conciliated settlements in courts and at police stations, is Phuket Chief Justice Varangkana Sujaritkul, who leaves shortly for a new judicial posting in Bangkok.

It was the idea of her predecessor. But Chief Justice Varangkana developed the scheme fully, easing pressures on Phuket's overworked and undermanned justice system.

''Mediation is certainly the best way to resolve many disputes,'' she said. ''Some people would like to see the law strictly imposed, and of course it has to be in serious crimes, but mediation is an outcome that produces a win-win situation.

''There is no loser. It saves the system being penalised, as well as the people involved.''

Corruption, she says, is virtually impossible in mediation because the parties involved start out at loggerheads with each other.

Trained experts in several fields and community workers comprise the mediation team that operates from rooms set aside on the ground floor on the Phuket Provincial Court. Justice of a different kind is administered in the courtrooms one floor up.

''In April, the number of justices on Phuket will rise by one to 19,'' she said. ''That will help to speed the court process. But mediation is also having a great effect.''

About 10,000 cases are processed in Phuket courts each year now. Phuket is unusual in that about 20 percent of people involved in disputes are non-Thai.

''There is one law for all, that's the Thai system,'' she said.

Knowledge about mediation as an alternative to the court and police systems is still spreading around the island.

Cases involving drugs, however, even for offences considered minor in some Western countries, are not subject to mediation.

Mediation was the Phuketwan Innovation of the Year on Phuket for 2009.
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Comments

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She will be hard to replace as she has done so much to improve the lot of tourists who find themselves in trouble.

For certain Phuket will not be fortunate enough to get another intelligent and proactive Chief Justice like Khun Varangkana as she is indeed one of a kind.

Posted by Treelover on April 2, 2010 09:05

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What a joke! Case in point, my truck was broadsided on the passenger side by a Thai who wasn't watching where he was going and "mediation" got me fifty/fifty !!! Cost me 20,000THB to repair the damage that mediated jackass caused as the accident was clearly his fault.... had the nerve to get angry when he found out I wasn't going to give him some cash for his criminal behavior and pathetic driving skills.

Editor: Were you forced to mediate? If you had reservations, you should have pursued your other option: a case for damages against the man. It's unreasonable to agree to a negotiated settlement, then complain. You probably saved yourself a lot of time and money.

Posted by You Must BeJoking on April 5, 2010 07:20

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@YouMustBeJoking: I had an accident in 2005. My insurance guy was very sad for me and invited me for a coffee, but said, if I really wanted to fly home that same day or even week I should accept guilt and pay the 20,000 baht "damages" to the other guy in front of the police. And my friends told me, if I argue or wait, it will get much more expensive. So yes, I think mediation is not perfect but much better then what was before.

Posted by Lena on April 5, 2010 16:36


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