Adaptations amid COVID-19 outbreak: Public Sector

Adaptations amid COVID-19 outbreak: Public Sector

                The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak undeniably affects everyone. Adjustments were made in order to minimize the risk of contact to avoid infection of COVID-19. Where physical presence was a common thing in contacting and dealing with government authorities, the need to adapt is inevitable. In a way, it is irrefutable that electronic communications easily connects people from different sides of the world and is widely adopted by most private sectors however it can be said that the use of electronic communications by the Thai public sector was limited until this current pandemic. COVID-19 acts as a catalyst to accelerate the adoption of various electronics-based procedure for the public sector. This article wishes to highlight some of those adaptations as follows:

Courts are more inclined towards electronic procedure for civil cases

           While the Courts have adopted electronic measures to facilitate in their proceedings which include, initiating a new case, checking case process and status via Case Information Online Service (CIOS) and video conference hearings however in practice especially for the electronic hearings, this was still cumbersome and depends on the discretion of the judges as well as the readiness of the parties but the lengthy COVID-19 situation accelerates or one could forces the courts to rely more on electronic means in order to keep the cases rolling. This became more evident on 20th July 2021 as the Office of the Judiciary announced the Notification re Rules and Regulations for the Electronic Procedure that overwrite the recent notification relating to this and made the e-procedure can be proceed efficiently.

The courts also encourage people to submit their case via e-filing and even submit the request to proceed with electronic procedure for the ongoing cases. This will facilitate court proceeding in various ways e.g. parties can submit documents including request and/or petition to court through e-filing or CIOS system, courts may correspond with parties in the case via e-mail or CIOS or the e-filing system, parties or witnesses can attend courts via video conference and certify or sign on documents with electronic means etc. This can be a good sign that electronic procedure, including legal documents and information made in electronic form are widely accepted in juridical system and will become more developed in the near future, thus making contacting and dealing with Thai government authorities more convenient and swift for all.

Government agencies now permitted to officially use electronic means as main correspondence channel

           The Notification of Prime Minister’s Office re Documents Control B.E. 2564 (2021) (4th amendment) was announced and introduced on 25th May 2021 providing amendments to the definition of “electronic documents control system” and providing clarity and enabling government agencies to go “electronic” to use electronic documents control system (except for the classified information) and has taken its full effect since 23rd August 2021 onwards. This includes e-mail and telephone message and more. For example, different government agencies can now send and receive inter-sector messages via e-mail system, which are to be acknowledged same-day, from the old practice to deliver and receive physical copies of such messages, which practically take several days or even weeks. Combining with the Royal Decree re Electronic Meetings B.E. 2563 (2020) which enables meetings required by law to be held electronically, we are expecting that government agencies will be working significantly faster in the near future.

Businesses and investors can benefit from the development in different ways. This starts from queuing. With the roll out of queuing apps or channels, you can spend less time in and out of government offices and more importantly during the pandemic, it minimizes the number of attendees in the building and promotes social distancing. Completing an application online would save time filling out forms in hard copy and with the information reaching the government officer before the applicant steps into the government building, it should promote for an efficient and time savings process for both the applicant and the government bureau. Examples of government dealings include:

  • Visa application with Thai embassies or consulates
  • Passport applications for Thais
  • Applications for registrations, licenses and/or permits with Thai government authorities
  • Applying for driving license or vehicle registrations.
  • Public services with local district office and Department of Provincial Administration

Filing applications with some authority turns to fully accept e-mail filing or full online application process such as:

  • The Thailand Board of Investment
  • Council of Engineers
  • Ministry of Finance
  • Bank of Thailand

Some certificates may also be issued electronically which saves time and cost for transportation to collect the physical version and again promotes social distancing while seeking minor clarifications from government agencies by sending queries through e-mail is becoming more common too.

                Moreover, procurement in public sectors, which was previously exempted from the mentioned Royal Decree, has now been permitted, to be conducted by electronic meeting though it is limited to a number of cases.

                Still, government agents are in transition period and may need time to adapt to the change, and some of the works still need legislation to enable them to be proceeded electronically, such as an application, petition, registration that needs to be filled to the government. The aforementioned is expected to be resolved with the Electronic Performance of Administrative Functions Act; which is still currently a draft and passed the public opinion phase on 14th March 2021. Lastly, with all things, change will require a transition period and it may take some time to fully adapt to such change therefore it is reasonable to expect a gradual process for this change.

                We shall share more updates as things develop and should you have any queries, please feel free to contact Gun Vasharakorn or Komcharn Kuachat at gunv@southasia-law.com or komcharnk@southasia-law.com .


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