On 19 April 2020 the Emergency Decree on Electronic Meetings B.E. 2563 (“the Emergency Decree”) was promulgated in Thailand. The law deems official meetings which are legally required by various existing laws, such as company shareholders meetings and company board of directors meetings, to be effectively binding although the attendees do not gather in person in a physical meeting venue but appear together in a virtual meeting room from anywhere in the world via electronic means.
This new, stand-alone law is the successor of a piece of legislation promulgated in June 2014 by the military junta that seized power in May 2014, namely the Announcement of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) No. 74/2557 on Electronic Meetings (“the Announcement”), the first law of its kind in Thailand. (NCPO announcements were—and some still are—equivalent to acts and decrees.) Under the Announcement, only e-meetings conducted by the bodies of the legislative and judicial branches of government and by national and local government agencies, state enterprises and public organizations for procurement purposes and other e-meetings which were considered necessary by the Cabinet of Ministers were deemed effectively binding. Moreover, the Announcement required that in each e-meeting, at least one-third of the quorum be physically present in a meeting venue and all attendees be in Thailand throughout the meeting.
In late-2019, COVID-19 arrived. In the first quarter of 2020, the pandemic wreaked havoc globally and the Thai government had to impose social-distancing and lockdown measures nationwide. The private sector was hit the hardest by the restrictions as companies and other types of commercial entities could not hold any kind of in-person meeting necessary for their business operations, resulting in business coming to an almost complete halt. On 18 April 2020 the administration of Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-Ocha (who was also the leader of the NCPO) decided to rescind the Announcement and replace it with the Emergency Decree to solve the problem.
In addition to legalizing e-meetings conducted by parties in the public sector, the Emergency Decree deems e-meetings conducted by parties in the private sector effectively binding. Furthermore, it does not require that one-third of the quorum of each meeting be physically present in a meeting venue and that all attendees be in Thailand throughout the meeting.
To facilitate the use of the Emergency Decree, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) on 13 May 2020 issued the Notification of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society on Standards for Maintaining Security of Meetings via Electronic Means B.E. 2563. Under this notification, the MDES provides meeting requirements and procedure in detail. For example, there are requirements for the attendees of each meeting to identify themselves
before the meeting begins, for attendees to be able to vote openly or by ballot and for the collection of “electronic traffic data” relating to the meeting. This term is loosely defined as “data that specifies the identity or username, the date and time of meeting attendance and the end of the meeting which can be referenced with standard time.”Although the Emergency Decree was introduced due to a necessity (as far as the private sector is concerned), it is hoped that it will be allowed to continue to exist beyond the COVID-19 era. Considering that tele-conferencing has taken a firm footing in practically all sectors and become so “normal” throughout the world now, there is no chance that the world will go back to the old way of doing business. /