Author Topic: An end to ‘unofficial fees’ charged by Thai officials?  (Read 781 times)

Offline thaiga

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An end to ‘unofficial fees’ charged by Thai officials?

A new law, due to come into force in July, could mean an end to demands by officials for "unofficial fees" to issue permits, licenses or registration documents.

Here, Tippaya Moonmanee of law firm Duensing Kippen analyses the new law and how it works.

Historically, obtaining a license, registration, permit or any other form of government permission has often been frustrating and costly in Thailand.

Inefficiencies and the all-too-common "tea money" or "unofficial fees" charged by government officers to perform their administrative duties, stem from the broad discretion government offices have up to now generally been given to determine what an applicant must do or provide in order to obtain a license, registration, or permission.

Recently, however, the Thai government enacted a law that may significantly reduce, or even eliminate, such waste and untoward practices.

The Licensing Facilitation Act (2015) was formally published on January 22 this year and will take effect a couple of months from now, on July 21.

With a few notable exceptions (they include court procedures and licensing related to strategic military operations), the Act applies to all licenses, registrations, and permissions that Thai law requires or allows individuals to obtain.

It also applies to the government offices charged with issuing these documents.

Furthermore, the Act requires that all government offices involved must produce, and make available to the public, a manual that details the procedure, timing, and specific requirements in order to obtain the licenses, registrations, or permissions that they administer.

This includes lists of all necessary documents that must be provided.

Significantly, once a manual is in place, Thai government offices covered by the Act will no longer have discretion to deviate from the requirements therein.

If, but only if, an application does not meet the requirements in the manual, an office may refuse an application.

However, in such a case the government office must make its refusal in writing to the applicant within the time required by the Manual.

This written notice must also explain why the office is refusing the application and detail how the applicant should revise the application to make it acceptable.

If an office is unable to make an initial determination on an application within the time required by the manual, that office must explain, within the following seven days and in writing to the applicant, why it was not possible to meet the deadline.

It must also send a copy of the explanation to an administrative oversight committee.

The written notice to the applicant must be repeated every seven days until the office provides its written decision on the application.

In the event any such office fails to comply with the Act's requirements "it shall be deemed that it commits or omits the commission of an act which causes damage to other persons; provided that such commission or omission was not caused by force majeure.”

This administrative law may not appear significant to some. And only time will tell how it will be implemented in practice. However, it is a welcome addition to Thailand's legal landscape.

We believe that, properly implemented, the Act has the potential to greatly improve administrative conduct and services in Thailand.

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