Asia and International Law

Human Rights – UN and partners launch $415 million appeal to aid quake-stricken Nepal (UN News, 29 April 2015)

The United Nations has launched a $415 million emergency appeal to provide vital relief to people affected by the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the densely populated Kathmandu Valley in Nepal on Saturday, killing at least 5,000, injuring at least 10,000 more. The joint action plan aims to support Government efforts in addressing the most critical needs of millions of people in need of shelter, water and sanitation, emergency health, food, and protection for the next three months, after the tremor and many powerful aftershocks destroyed around 70,000 houses and damaged another 530,000 across 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts.The so-called Flash Appeal reflects both the scale of the needs and the significant logistical challenges linked to providing an effective large-scale humanitarian response in hard-to-reach, mountainous areas.

Human Rights – Welcoming Myanmar’s visible strides, Ban says ‘much more hard work lies ahead’ (UN News, 24 April 2015)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the positive direction of its reform process as it continues on its “path of historic transition”, but emphasized that more work remains to be done to address the country’s myriad challenges. “The country has taken visible strides in many areas of socio-economic development, national reconciliation and democratization,” Mr. Ban said at the Partnership Group on Myanmar, emphasizing that the reform process initiated by the Government of President U Thein Sein continues to progress steadily. The general elections due to be held by year’s end will be an important milestone and conducting them in a credible and inclusive manner, will require long-term engagement by all. In that regard, the Government must ensure free assembly, an open atmosphere for the media and the protection of civil and political rights for all. “However, much more hard work lies ahead. It will be important that the ceasefire agreement is signed and sealed without delay,” he said, emphasizing that the agreement is only a first step towards a broader national dialogue on important issues such as the role of military and constitutional reform.

Human Rights – Geoffrey Robertson calls on Australian government to use international law to save Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (Sydney Morning Herald, 29 April 2015)

Leading human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson has called on the Australian government to take immediate action under international law to try to prevent the imminent executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Speaking at a vigil in Sydney, he said death row experiences were often a matter of last-minute reprieves and that Australia should make clear the consequences for Indonesia if the executions went ahead. He told the crowd of more than 500 that Australian diplomats in Geneva should "demand an emergency session of the [United Nations] Human Rights Council to hold Indonesia responsible for breaching international law".

International Economic Law – Japan, US agree to boost global alliance reach in security, trade (Jakarta Post, 30 April 2015)

Japan and the United States have agreed to boost their alliance through increased defense cooperation to contribute to peace and prosperity beyond the Asia-Pacific region at a time of growing Chinese military might and the looming threat of a nuclear North Korea. “We recognize that the security and prosperity of our two countries in the 21st century is intertwined, inseparable, and not defined solely by national borders,” according to a joint statement released after a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama at the White House. The two nations were also on the same page on the importance of swiftly concluding a US-led Pacific free trade framework, apparently in the face of the growing influence of China. Standing alongside Abe, Obama said that with the new guidelines, Japanese and US forces will be “more flexible and better prepared to cooperate on a range of challenges from maritime security to disaster response” in the Asia-Pacific region.

International Economic Law – ASEAN: Stronger Thrust Needed To Eliminate Non-tariff-barriers (Bernama, 29 April 2015)

There is a need for a stronger thrust by ASEAN leaders to ensure non-tariff-barriers are eliminated to achieve meaningful regional integration, says the ASEAN Business Club (ABC). President, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid said expectations are high for the ASEAN Economic Community's (AEC) formation by year-end, and the ABC will conduct a business forum in May. It will be part of the final push for integration and a platform to dissect sector-based issues hindering free and fair trade in ASEAN. The ABC is organizing the 3rd Annual ASEAN Business Club Forum themed, “Road to ASEAN Integration" on May 14 in Singapore. Munir said the ABC would freely share the gap analysis and its latest findings, based on the forum. The ABC is an association of chief executives of ASEAN's business enterprises and one of the first regional business clubs. Its aim is to achieve regional integration via the forum by bringing together ASEAN's top business leaders to network, collaborate and play a leading role in the ASEAN economic integration process.

International Economic Law – Malaysia PM Najib: We may differ slightly, but there is strong ASEAN solidarity (Asia One, 29 April 2015)

Differences among ASEAN member countries on the South China Sea dispute will not split the regional grouping, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Najib said the issue had instead shown strong unity within ASEAN to deal with the challenge collectively. "No, it has not (split ASEAN), because I see that there is strong ASEAN unity and solidarity. "We may differ slightly in our approaches but we are all on the same page when it comes to the main principles of how we deal with the question of the South China Sea," Najib told reporters here. Najib said there were frank ex­­­changes of views and concerns among member countries on the issue. "However, ASEAN will continue to uphold the principles that we had enunciated." He said disputes should be settled in an amicable, negotiated manner, and that all parties must adhere to international laws, specifically the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of The Sea. Claimant countries should not do anything to increase tensions in the region, and must adhere fully to the 2002 Declaration on The Conduct of Parties in The South China Sea (DoC). "We will continue to maintain our position vis-à-vis these stated principles which will guide us when we conduct our relations with China and the other powers in the region," said Najib. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi who was earlier approached by reporters said that ASEAN had not failed to send its message to China on the dispute in the South China Sea.

Law of the Sea – ASEAN needs to address China's reclamation in disputed sea: Statement (Channel News Asia, 28 April 2015)

A day-late release of the concluding ASEAN Summit statement by Prime Minister Najib Razak was stronger than expected on the South China Sea. It reflected concerns by the Philippines and Vietnam and was amended at the last minute and only released a day after the Summit ended. Analysts had expected the grouping to steer clear of comments about China, but Manila has warned that failure to call China to task over the reclamation work on islands it also claims would undermine ASEAN credibility and solidarity. Najib denied that the issue has split the grouping. "I see there is strong ASEAN unity and solidarity, we may defer slightly in our approaches but we are all on the same page - the principles on how we deal with South China Sea." He said ASEAN would continue to engage China through non-confrontational means by adhering to international laws, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. ASEAN foreign ministers meanwhile are tasked to urgently address the issue and push for early conclusion of a code of conduct with China in the South China Sea.

Law of the Sea – China 'Gravely Concerned' by ASEAN Statement on South China Sea (The Diplomat, 29 April 2015)

The recent ASEAN Summit statement has highlighted that Chinese land reclamation activities as having the potential to “undermine peace, security, and stability in the South China Sea.” ASEAN members also “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight over the South China Sea” and urged the speedy conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. When asked about the ASEAN statement in a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said, “The Chinese side is gravely concerned about the statement of the 26th ASEAN Summit on the South China Sea issue.” China’s main complaint has always been that ASEAN summits are not a proper place to discuss the South China Sea, as only four of the ten ASEAN nations have claims to disputed islets in the area. The South China Sea “is not an issue between China and ASEAN,” Hong reiterated.

Law of the Sea – Indonesian president says China's main claim in South China Sea has no legal basis (Reuters, 23 March 2015)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said one of China's main claims to the majority of the South China Sea – territory ringed within the nine-dash line – had no legal basis in international law, but Jakarta wanted to remain an "honest broker" in one of Asia's most thorny territorial disputes. Widodo's comments in an interview with a major Japanese newspaper came as he embarked on a visit to Japan and China, and was the first time he had taken a position on the issue since coming to power in October.

International Economic Law – Case Comment: Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic v Sanum Investments Ltd [2015] SGHC 15

In a seminal decision of the Singapore High Court on the jurisdiction of an arbitral tribunal under a bilateral investment treaty between the People’s Republic of China and Laos (“PRC-Laos BIT”), the Court in Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic ("Laos") v Sanum Investments Ltd ("Sanum") [2015] SGHC 15 held that the arbitral tribunal had no jurisdiction under the PRC-Laos BIT. This is the first decision in which the Singapore High Court had to consider the interpretation of the scope of a bilateral investment treaty in deciding on an investment tribunal’s jurisdictional ruling. This commentary focuses on the issue of whether Sanum's expropriation claims fell within Article 8(3) of the BIT, which provides that disputes "involving the amount of compensation for expropriation" can be submitted to arbitration.

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