Southeast Asia Law and Policy Forum

The Southeast Asia Law and Policy Forum has key strengths in legal education and constitutionalism. The initiative conducts occasional seminars and workshops, research collaboration and training in the region, including East Timor, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines.

The objectives of the Forum 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 and leading research institutions across Southeast Asia 

The Southeast Asia Law and Policy Forum is part of a wider network of more than 60 scholars working on Southeast Asia at UNSW.

Professional legal education in commercial and corporate law in Myanmar

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.  

Australia-Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project

This project, which began in 2013, is a joint enterprise of a number of law schools, including UNSW Sydney, the University of Sydney and the Australian National University (ANU). UNSW is currently responsible for it. The project aims to directly increase the capacity of local actors to participate positively in the process of constitutional reform in Myanmar. It does this by expanding the constitutional vocabulary of different groups within society (ethnic communities, grassroots organisations, political leaders, members of the media) so they can contribute to political discourse.

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


Contemporary populism and constitutional democracy

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. It will identify, reconstruct and evaluate legal and constitutional aims of, and institutional solutions adopted by, such regimes. It will 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.  

The 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. The project includes a focus on the Philippines.


Constitutional change in authoritarian regimes: the case of Myanmar

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, this project will investigate why Myanmar's constitution is both a constraint and an enabler of democratic reform. This 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

Fostering women’s empowerment through digital entrepreneurship

This workshop series funded by an Australia-ASEAN grant will bring 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 workshops, to be held in Jakarta (November 2019), Thailand (March 2020) and Canberra (June 2020), will provide a platform for dialogue among academics, government, businesses, communities and media on issues of women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion. Key participants will 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. The workshops will 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). 


Student Opportunities and Internships
Indonesian Law Practicum

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.


Institute for Global Development/Law School Internship

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. 


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Reading Groups
Southeast Asia Law Reading Group

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

Ethnography Reading Group

This is an interdisciplinary group of scholars and students from across campus that meets regularly to discuss key books on ethnography.

Lead academic

Melissa Crouch, Associate Professor

Researchers and students

Indri Saptraningrun is an experienced legal researcher, human rights advocate and PhD candidate at UNSW Law. 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.

Milda Istiqomah is a PhD candidate at UNSW Law. 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.

Chhunvoleak is a PhD candidate at UNSW Law. Her thesis is titled ‘Case management and access to justice for commercial litigation in Cambodia’. Voleak has extensive experience in the Cambodian judicial system. From 2009 to 2014, she worked at the Kandal Provincial Court, before being promoted to the Appellate Court in 2014.

Lena Hanifah is undertaking her PhD at UNSW Law 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.

Natasha Yacoub is a PhD candidate at UNSW Law and affiliate of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law. Her thesis is titled: ‘Rethinking the history of refugee protection in Southeast Asia: law, policy and practice’. Ms Yacoub is presently on leave from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where she has been posted since 2001 in conflict and non-conflict settings in Egypt, Sudan, Ireland, UN Headquarters New York, Myanmar, Australia and the Pacific Island states. Her research interests are regional refugee protection, refugee status determination, statelessness, protection of civilians and the protection of refugee women and girls.

Ashraful Azad is a PhD candidate at UNSW Law. His PhD focuses on the migration of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Malaysia and the response of states towards such migration. His research analyses the irregular migration of stateless people and connects the mobility between South Asia and Southeast Asia. Ashraful is an assistant professor in the Department of International Relations, University of Chittagong (currently on study leave). His main research interests are Rohingya refugees, irregular migration and labour migration in Bangladesh.

Katherine Chork is undertaking an Arts/Law degree at UNSW and works as a research assistant. Her legal studies include both commercial and public interest fields. In 2016, she contributed to a submission by the UNSW Law Society for the Senate inquiry into the conditions and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees at the regional processing centres in the Republic of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. She was also on the Faculty of Law Dean’s List in 2017, achieving first place in Law and Social Theory, for which she wrote a research essay applying Giorgio Agamben’s theory of the camp to Australia’s asylum seeker policy.

Natasha Naidu has a BA/LLB (Hons I) from UNSW and she is currently a research assistant at UNSW Law. Her research focuses on the rule of law in South and Southeast Asia. In 2017, Natasha worked as an intern on defence of an alleged Khmer Rouge genocidaire at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). She also has an interest in gender empowerment in South and Southeast Asia and assists Associate Professor Crouch on a project focusing on women’s empowerment and gender equality among the legal profession and the judiciary in Asia. Natasha will return to Cambodia to take up a legal consultancy working for Project Expedite Justice, an NGO litigating on behalf of victims of mass atrocities such as human trafficking.

Sai Myint Aung is a final year Juris Doctor (JD) student, a research assistant and a peer tutor at UNSW Law. He grew up in Taunggyi in eastern Myanmar. His research interests include law and development, law and society and comparative constitutional law.

Madelene Wonders is a Juris Doctor (JD) graduate from UNSW and has a Master of Human Rights and a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy) from University of Sydney. She is a research assistant on Associate Professor Melissa Crouch’s ARC Discovery Project on Constitutional Change in Authoritarian Regimes. Other research interests include law and social theory, and human rights issues such as modern slavery and economic and social rights. Madelene is the 2019–20 Human Rights Fellow at Legal Aid NSW where she will work with the Legal Aid Human Rights Committee. 

Alumni network

Bhatara Ibnu Reza completed his PhD at UNSW Law in 2019. His thesis is titled on ‘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 comments frequently 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 is 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 discussion 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.