Thailand is a signatory to the Hague Treaty on Child Abduction and enforcement is made through the Thailand Attorney General Office. However, Thailand has not yet enacted an internal law that affirms legal implementation of the Hague Treaty statutes. Thailand’s legal system involves a two-tiered process for new laws, and the statutes of the Hague Treaty have not yet gone through the second process to become a part of Thailand’s internal legal system.
What this means is that it can be more difficult to use the HCCH to seek Thailand’s help in returning a child who has been abducted from another country and taken to Thailand. The Thai police and other local law enforcement agencies might be reluctant to provide their assistance, as in Thai culture this kind of scenario might be considered as private business to be handled between family members.
If an individual does need assistance in locating and seeking the return of a child from Thailand, they may need to enlist the services of a local investigator in Thailand. Once the child has been located, the individual may then have to file with the Thai Family Court to seek return of the child.
In other cases, when a child is abducted from within Thailand and taken to another country, if that country is a signatory state and has implemented the HCCH statutes then an individual may be able to obtain assistance from Thailand’s Attorney General in contacting the central authority of the other state. If the other state already has HCCH procedures in place, then it is more likely that a faster solution can be found to located the child and ensure the child is returned to Thailand.
In 2010, for those children abducted from the UK to a Non Hague Convention country, the most frequent destinations were Pakistan, India, Egypt and Thailand.
Fact, Fiction, and the US State Department Website
There are certain inaccuracies on the US State Department’s Website on “International Parental Child Abduction Thailand”. On such inaccuracy can be found on the first page, in the first paragraph:
“Parental Kidnapping is not a crime in Thailand and Thai authorities will not issue a warrant or become involved should one parent take a child without the other parent’s authorization.”
In actuality there are laws concerning child abduction and child custody laws in Thailand. Child abduction inThailandis covered by Section 317 of the Thailand Criminal Code, which states:
“Whoever, without any reasonable cause, takes away a child not yet over fifteen years of age from the parent, guardian, or person looking after such child, he or she shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years and fined of six thousand to thirty thousand baht.”
A case for child abduction begins with a court filing for sole custody of the abducted child. Once sole custody is attained, if the non-custodial parent has abducted the child, the suite may become a criminal case. A Thailand lawyer can file a claim on behalf of parents to establish custody rights over the child in question. The motion in the Thai courts can force the offending parent to appear in court in Thailand, and the custodial parent may assert parental rights.
Thailand and the Hague Convention
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides a procedure for parents who have had their children abducted by the other parent. The Hague Treaty on Child Abduction is executed through the governments of treaty member countries, but normally requires an attorney to file the appropriate documents with the government authority responsible for the action to ensue.
“The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction cannot be invoked if a child is taken from the United States to Thailand, or vice versa, by one parent against the wishes of the other parent or in violation of a U.S. custody order.”
This statement gives the mistaken impression that Thailand does not recognize the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This is untrue; Thailand is has formally acceded to the convention but as yet the proper procedures for acting upon the convention have not been codified into Thai law. The convention, like the topics of surrogacy and IVF, fall into the “grey area” of Thailand law. For this reason, parents are encouraged to pursue their cases in the Thailand courts in the procedure outlined above.
Some Q & A on International Parental Child Abduction and Thailand;
Q: What should I do if my child is abducted and taken to Thailand?
A: The first thing a parent must do if a child has been abducted is to contact a qualified Thailand family law attorney and make a police report. A qualified attorney will assist with filing the necessary complaints with legal authorities. Based on the circumstances of each case, a family attorney may file a police report with the relevant embassy in Thailand, or file a formal request pursuant to the Hague Treaty. A Thai Family Law Attorney can file a court complaint with the Thailand family court. If criminal charges are involved, a criminal complaint may also be required.
Q: Can the Hague Convention on Child Abduction be used in Thailand?
A: The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides a procedure for parents who have had their children abducted by the other parent. The Hague Treaty on Child Abduction is executed through the governments of treaty member countries, but normally requires an attorney to file the appropriate documents with the government authority responsible for the retrieval of the child.
Thailand has formally acceded to the convention; however, at this time the proper procedures for acting upon the convention have not been codified into Thai law. This means that the convention, falls into an ambiguous area of Thailand law. In certain cases of child abduction originating in Thailand, wherein the child has been taken to a different that is a Hague connection signatory, a Hague Convention action may be filed through the relevant government authorities of the country. However, in cases where a child has been abducted and taken to Thailand, the aggrieved parents’ remedy may be through obtaining a court order from the Thai family court. Cases need to be examined individually.
Q: What is the procedure for retrieving a child who has been taken to Thailand?
A: In order to retrieve a child that has been abducted by a parent in Thailand, the parent who is seeking the return of the child must established custody rights of the child in Thailand Family Courts. A court order of sole custody can then be used by the aggrieved parent to obtain the return of the child. Such action can be enforced by Thailand court and police officials. Depending on the circumstances, a police complaint may also be necessary.
One such case is of Sean Felton a UK man who struggled with no help to recover his son in Thailand after he was abducted by his mother from the UK……..Sean went on and wrote a book about his story which is a must read for any parent. Sean is the now the founder of a wonderful non-profit organisation in the UK called, Abducted Angels. All staff have been victims of Parental Child Abduction and offer support and assistance in raising money to help victim parents. They are the only non-profit organisation in the UK who offer support in raising funds to help parents recover their children.
‘Scared of the Dark’
Scared of the Dark is the true story of Sean Felton’s epic struggle to find his young son, Jobe, after he was kidnapped by his mother and held ransom in Thailand. Following the break-up of his marriage, Sean was sent reeling when his ex-wife disappeared with Jobe. Her actions made Sean acutely aware of just how limited a father’s rights are in the wake of the mother deciding to sever all contact. Sean saw that he had no support, no guidance and no legal or financial weight behind him. He would have to battle on alone, relying on his own courage and determination to rescue his own son. Scared of the Dark reveals Sean’s painful and arduous journey, the lengths he was forced to go to and the risks he had to take. He used Facebook to successfully hunt down his child, but at his lowest point, Sean feared that Jobe had been sold into the sex trade by his mother and that he would never see him again. Sean Felton has endured every parent’s worst nightmare, but he fought back, was finally reunited with his son and is now proud to have lived to share his story with other parents who continue to suffer as he did. Scared of the Dark is the unflinching, devastating and inspirational story of the triumph of a father’s love over adversity. Sean hopes that this book will help raise awareness of the plight of stolen children and the grieving loved ones leave behind. Today Sean is a tireless campaigner for parents with abducted children around the world and the founder of Abducted Angels http://www.abductedangels.org/
The Bottom Line
Child abduction cases in Thailand are far more complicated than many authorities give them credit for, as a variety of factors come into play that may affect the retrieval of the abducted child. In the event of such a serious crime, parents must seek legal counsel from an experienced Thailand attorney to learn about the options available to them.
CARI has operated numerous times in helping clients recover their abducted children from Thailand.