Thammasat University Establishes a Pandemic Legal Aid Centre To Provide Free Consultation during COVID-19

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The Faculty of Laws, Thammasat University(TU) opens TU Pandemic Legal Aid Centre FOR providing an online consultation from the professor team to people who are affected by COVID-19.

The impact of COVID-19 becomes more obvious as time passes by. Many businesses are reducing employment hours in order to save costs. Some businesses are laying off their employees or permanently close their businesses. These looped impacts are followed by legal disputes. According to the statistics of the number of people coming to TU Pandemic Legal Aid Centre for help, half of them came to consult on employment-related issues, especially lay-offs.

Moreover, during the COVID-19 situation, there are many other legal disputes for which people can seek consultation. For example, the impacts on rights and obligations of contract parties, information dissemination, and entry-departure from the country are some of the other problems that related to the effect of COVID-19.

Thammasat University established a “Law centre” 40 years earlier. The centre aims to give consultation to the poor in order for them to have equal access to judicial processes. However, after the outbreak of COVID-19, TU’s Faculty of Laws have consulted and agreed to change the law center to be TU Pandemic Legal Aid Centre in order to give ad-hoc help to affected people via Facebook Page and Email. The two main missions of the centre are firstly, giving legal advice and consultation excluding the advocacy, and secondly, informing legal knowledge about the COVID-19 situation.

“Originally, the centre only provided service for the poor but now we have changed to serve people who are affected by COVID-19 regardless of their status and occupation, including, normal citizen, vendor or businessman. However, people who will get help have to be “normal individuals” not legal entities or a corporation with commercial motives,” says Assoc.Prof.Dr.Munin Pongsapan, Dean of the Faculty of Laws, Thammasat University.

“In terms of the service, in the past, we focused on face-to-face communication but during this time, we changed to give “online” advice. Obviously, our consultations have to be trustworthy. In some cases that is fact, we have to discuss the issues thoroughly. There are more than 10 law specialists working in the centre. New graduates and the fourth-year students from the Faculty of Laws are the ones who receive cases from an online platform”, says Assoc.Prof.Dr.Munin.

Although TU Pandemic Legal Aid Centre has opened for less than a month, many affected people have sought help. Dean of the Faculty of Laws says that currently, the centre has provided legal aid to 30 complex cases. Each case takes not more than 72 hours to proceed which includes taking the case, specialist’s discussion, gathering of ideas, rechecking ideas, and providing consultation to an affected person. Most processes only take 24-48 hours.

“In fact, the centre has provided consultation for more than 30 cases. However, these 30 cases have complex truth and different legal issues. If there are cases that are similar to the cases we have advised, we will give the same consultation and will not count it as a new case. Some cases are about asking for basic legal information so we will answer these questions and not count them as a new case”, said Assoc.Prof.Dr.Munin. According to the statistic, half of the cases are about “labor”, followed by cases about debt, contracts, penalty and governing which clearly reflect the current impact.

Assoc.Prof.Dr.Munin also says that to provide legal knowledge, the centre will post short articles on Facebook Page, including articles about the impacts on rights and obligations of contract parties, criminal liability for COVID-19 information dissemination, lay-off and compensation rights, contract relation, debt and rights of people who live overseas.

“Some cases that are often asked or people are interested in will be published in 2-3 page long articles. The articles will be shared and answered people’s questions so some of them don’t have to directly send their questions to us”, says Assoc.Prof.Dr.Munin.

All in all, people who are affected by COVID-19 can seek for advice from TU Pandemic Legal Aid Centre via Facebook Page: TU Pandemic Legal Aid Centre and Email: [email protected] by sending their questions or problems and identifying their name-surname and the fact about their situation.

The questions will be sent to law experts to consider. The experts will give advice in 72 hours or more in some complex cases.