Regional Consultation on Access to Justice and Legal Aid in ASEAN, 4-5th April 2016

Between 4-5th April 2016 the South East Asia Legal Aid Network (SEALAW) together with the Office of Law Reform Commission of Thailand (OLRCT) organized “the regional consultation on Access to Justice and Legal Aid in ASEAN: Situation, Challenges and Way Forward”. Ninety-nine (99) persons representing state agencies, civil society organizations, bar associations and academic institutions from a wide array of countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand came together to share and learn from best practices in different countries, reflect on challenges faced by legal aid providers and brainstorm on steps that can be taken to strengthen legal aid systems in the region.

SEALAW is an association of legal aid organizations that provides support and assistance in the development of legal aid systems in countries throughout South East Asia. In pursuance of these objectives, it facilitates strengthening of capacities through learning of best practices and engaging in advocacy for reform in law, policies and their implementation.

The OLRCT, an independent organization established under the 2007 Constitution of Thailand, has the mandate of impartially revising and developing the laws of the country and amending them to be consistent with the Constitution and international standards.

Both SEALAW and the OLRCT adhere to the principle that in accordance with international human rights law States have the primary responsibility to adopt all appropriate measures to fully realize the rights to legal aid. This obligation has been reaffirmed by State in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) number 16 dedicated to the promotion of just, peaceful and inclusive societies and one of the goal targets is to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.

Within this context the participants of the consultation engaged in discussions and shared many experiences and lessons learned.  In doing so they focused on strategic thematic topics to help them identify best practices and better achieve the implementation and strengthening of sustainable legal aid systems throughout the region.

These fruitful dialogues led to a significant number of collaboratively developed draft recommendations which SEALAW and OLRCT will analyze and consider adopting in order to help provide a forward thinking legal aid support pathway.

Some of the presentations made in the course of the Consultation were:

  1. International Standards on Legal Aid, by Patrick Burgess, President, Asia Justice and Rights and Board Member of SEALAW (S1-1)

  1. The Legal Aid Implementation in Indonesia, by Ms. Enny Nurbaningsih, National Law and Development Agency, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Republic of Indonesia (S2-1)

  1. Legal Aid System in Philippines, by Dr. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, Chief Public Attorney, Public Attorney’s Office, Philippines (S2-2)

  1. Access to Justice and Legal Aid, by Ms. Kannikar Saengthong, Director General, Rights and Liberties Protection Department, Ministry of Justice, Thailand

  1. Legal Aid in Indonesia, Civil Society Perspective, Alghiffari Aqsa, LBH Jakarta

  1. Legal Aid Work of Yangon Justice Center, U Kyaw Myint, Myanmar

  1. Legal Aid in Cambodia, Mr. RUN Saray, Executive Director and Lawyer, Legal Aid of Cambodia

  1. Legal Aid Laws and Systems in Thailand, by Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Former Commissioner, Office of Law Reform Commission of Thailand and President, SEALAW

  1. Research Projects on Strengthening of the Right of People to Access to Legal Aid, Ms. Sayamol Kaiyoorawong, Deputy Secretary General, Office of Law Reform Commission of Thailand

  1. Legal Aid Center, Ubonratchathani Province, Thailand

  1. Legal Aid Center, Naresuan University,

  1. Legal Aid in South East Asia, A Comparative Perspective, by Mr. Gilbert V. Sembrano, Ateneo Human Rights Center, Philippines

  1. Sustainable Development Goals, Implementing Framework for Ensuring Access to Justice for All, Kittipong Kittayarak, Executive Director, Thailand Institute of Justice