The Southeast Asia Law and Policy Forum at UNSW Law & Justice is a network of researchers who foster and support research on law and politics in Southeast Asia. 

Using our key strengths – legal education and constitutionalism – we conduct seminars, workshops, research collaborations and training in the Southeast Asia region, including East Timor, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines. 

Our aims are to:

  • foster excellence in interdisciplinary research and collaboration on the legal traditions of Southeast Asia 
  • support a scholarly community of outstanding researchers and mentor emerging leaders with expertise on law and policy in Southeast Asia 
  • equip the next generation of graduate and undergraduate students to gain in-depth knowledge of Southeast Asia and its laws through unique elective courses  
  • internships, exchange experiences and higher degree research 
  • enhance wider public engagement and understanding of contemporary issues of law and governance in Southeast Asia  
  • promote and enhance exchange and collaboration between UNSW Law & Justice and leading research institutions across Southeast Asia. 

We’re part of a wider network of more than 60 scholars working on Southeast Asia at UNSW Sydney.

Projects

  • The project, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is led by Melissa Crouch (2016–19). The focus is on improving legal education and skills integral to the transactional practice and adjudication of commercial law. 

    The project includes developing a training program for the practical legal needs of private lawyers, government lawyers, prosecutors and judges in commercial and financial law.   

  • This project, which began in 2013, is a joint enterprise of various law schools, including UNSW Sydney, the University of Sydney and the Australian National University (ANU). UNSW is currently responsible for it. 

    We aim to directly increase the capacity of local actors to participate positively in the process of constitutional reform in Myanmar. We do this by expanding the constitutional vocabulary of different groups within society (such as ethnic communities, grassroots organisations, political leaders and members of the media) so they can contribute to political discourse. 

    Our objective is to expand the democratic political space during a critical time in Myanmar’s transition towards constitutional democracy. Our project aims to support increased constitutional stability, leading to an environment where there is greater prospect for peaceful and equitable development. 

    We have held 10 workshops in various locations in Myanmar. Past sponsors include Rotary Australia, the Australian Embassy in Yangon, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the University of Sydney, UNSW, the ANU, the National University of Singapore (NUS), KOICA and the Community of Democracies. 

    Team

  • This ARC Discovery Project aims to explain and evaluate constitutional populism or regimes that have come to power in a global wave of ‘populist’ parties challenging traditional ones. 

    We will identify, reconstruct and evaluate legal and constitutional aims of, and institutional solutions adopted by, such regimes. We’ll examine whether they respect the forms of democracy or just pay lip service to, for example, principles of the rule of law and constitutionalism while working to subvert such principles.  

    Our project will focus on what ‘new populists’ do with power once they have it, what the consequences are for a global view of democracy and informing Australia’s geopolitical engagement with such regimes. Our project includes a focus on the Philippines.

    Team  

  • This ARC Discovery Project aims to understand how and why constitutions change in authoritarian regimes. 

    After decades of authoritarian rule, there is lively public debate about formal amendment of the Myanmar constitution. Based on rigorous qualitative methods, including archival research and in-depth interviews, our project will investigate why Myanmar's constitution is both a constraint and an enabler of democratic reform. 

    Our timely socio-legal project seeks to inform Australia’s political, economic and cultural engagement with Myanmar as a strategic neighbour in southeast Asia and a new market for foreign investment.

    Sole Chief Investigator: A/Professor Melissa Crouch

  • This workshop series brings leading experts and researchers from Australia, Thailand and Indonesia together to focus on the role of digital entrepreneurship in enabling women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion in developing communities and develop a capacity-building road map. The series is funded by an Australia-ASEAN grant.

    Our workshops – held in Jakarta (November 2019), Thailand (March 2020) and Canberra (June 2020) – provide a platform for dialogue among academics, government, businesses, communities and media on issues of women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion. Key participants share case studies of kampung digital programs, the effect of digital marketplaces, and the current state of women’s digital entrepreneurship initiatives and SMEs in farming communities in West Java and South Sulawesi of Indonesia. These workshops promote and support knowledge development on women in leadership.  

    This interdisciplinary project involves UNSW faculties of Business, Law and Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW’s Institute for Global Development (IGD) and in-kind collaboration with the Ford Foundation, the Social Trust Fund and the State Islamic University (Jakarta) and Thammasat Business School (Thailand). 

    Team

Student opportunities and internships

  • Every January, a six-week Law Professional Practicum is run by the Australian Consortium of In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS), and there is often New Colombo Plan scholarships available for eligible students. Students should contact the UNSW International Office for more details and seek permission from the Law School internship coordinator. Students can also contact Melissa Crouch as a founding Advisory member of the Law Practicum for details of the program.

  • Melissa Crouch, as the Myanmar Academic Lead of the Institute for Global Development (IGD), has established and runs an internship program for law students. Students should apply through the usual internship application process. 

Reading groups

  • The Southeast Asia Law Reading Group meets every second month during term. Subscribe to the Southeast Asia Law & Policy email list to receive updates on meetings for this group.

  • The Ethnography Reading Group is an interdisciplinary group of scholars and students from across campus that meets regularly to discuss key books on ethnography.

Members

  • Melissa Crouch, Professor

  • Milda Istiqomah is a PhD candidate at UNSW Law & Justice. Her PhD thesis is ‘Factors contributing to terrorism sentencing decisions in Indonesia’. Milda is also a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Brawijaya University, Indonesia, teaching criminal law and criminology. She researches terrorism, deradicalisation programs and countering violent extremism, as well as sentencing patterns and trends in terrorism offences, with a specialisation in Indonesia.

    Lena Hanifah is undertaking her PhD at UNSW Law & Justice on ‘Islamic inheritance law in Indonesia: the experience of women'. She is an academic from Lambung Mangkurat University, Banjarmasin, Kalimantan, Indonesia. Lena is an expert in Islamic inheritance law, gender and family law, Islamic law and legal pluralism.

    Indri Saptraningrun is an experienced legal researcher, human rights advocate and PhD candidate at UNSW Law & Justice. Her thesis is entitled ‘From government to governance: the politics of Indonesia’s digital content policies post-2008.’ Indri is the former Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), and a recipient of the prestigious Australian Awards Scholarship and the British Chevening Award.

    Bhatara Ibnu Reza completed his PhD at UNSW Law in 2019. His thesis is titled ‘The development of the state-sponsored militia as the implementation of the total people's defence and security system in Indonesia’. He was formerly a senior researcher at Imparsial, a prominent legal NGO in Jakarta. He frequently comments in the media on issues of law and human rights in Indonesia and now works as an academic at a Jakarta university.

    Dr Melissa Jardine was awarded her PhD at UNSW Law on policing in Vietnam in 2019. In 2018–19, she was a consultant to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and UN Women in relation to gender, policing, border control and transnational crimes in ASEAN. Melissa has written and delivered a range of international police training packages regarding HIV prevention, harm reduction approaches to drug use and sex work, and police-public health leadership.

    Fritz Edward Siregar is an alumnus of UNSW Law. He completed a Doctorate of Juridical Science (SJD) in 2016 on judicial behaviour and judicialisation of the Indonesia Constitutional Court and received the Australian Leadership Award. In June 2017, he was a visiting fellow at UNSW Law. In 2017, he was also appointed by the President of Indonesia to the Indonesian Elections Supervisory Board (2017–22). Fritz previously worked at the International Monetary Fund’s project on legal reform in Indonesia. He has been a lecturer at several institutions, including the University of Indonesia, Indonesia Jentera School of Law, Swiss German University and the Christian University of Indonesia. Fritz has a particular interest in election studies.

    Phyo Mouk has a Master of Laws (LLM) in Dispute Resolution from UNSW, specialising in corporate and commercial law. He now works as a Judicial Officer in the Supreme Court Union of Myanmar in the Law and Procedure Department. He is involved in the Supreme Court Project, including as a member of the working group for the implementation and introduction of the Court-Led Mediation Program. Phyo promotes public awareness of mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism in Myanmar and is involved in discussions on the reform of arbitration. He has worked on drafting Myanmar’s new intellectual property law and, in 2020, will commence his PhD in Japan.

    Yin Myo Su Hlaing obtained a Master of Laws (LLM) from UNSW in 2017, specialising in human rights and social justice. She is an Assistant Director for the Union Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) in Myanmar. She is a member of the working group to implement the functions of Union Coordination Body (UCB) for Rule of Law Centre and Justice Sector Affairs, a member of the research team of the UAGO and is on the team upgrading the English-Myanmar Law Dictionary.

    Nyi Nyi Kyaw received his PhD from UNSW in international and political studies in 2015. He also has two master’s degrees in international political economy and human rights and democratisation (Asia Pacific). He has been awarded a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Law School, the National University of Singapore. Since 2019, he has been a visiting fellow in the Myanmar Studies Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. He specialises in issues of identity, religion, Buddhist-Muslim relations, nationalism and populism, with a specialisation in Myanmar.

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