Current Issue

Newsletter 2016/10

Asia and International Law

Developments and news pertaining to Asia in various areas of IL

Human RightsUN calls for protecting civilians as fighting, though reduced, continues in north-west Myanmar (UN News, 19 October 2016)

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), border posts in northwest Myanmar were attacked on 9 October resulting in the displacement of several hundred people. Some 1,200 people are confirmed to have taken shelter in a school at Buthidaung (a town located in the far-west of Myanmar, about 25 kilometres from Maungdaw, near the country’s border with Bangladesh). At the briefing, OCHA spokesperson, Mr. Dujarric, also reported that tight movement restrictions in the “operation zone” continue to be imposed, thereby blocking access to the UN and other international partners as well as for local Muslim villagers.Bangladesh has also sealed its borders with Myanmar to deny the attackers an easy escape and has handed over two suspects to the Government authorities. “The UN hopes that this situation can be resolved quickly so that Rakhine state can be restored to normalcy so that its people can move forward towards a peaceful, prosperous and harmonious future,” added Mr. Dujarric.

Law of the SeaIndonesia pushes for code of conduct on South China Sea row (The Australian, 27 October 2016)

Indonesia will push for a maritime code of conduct for the South China Sea and seek clarification from Manila over its apparent shift in policy toward talks with China on joint maritime exploration in the region, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said yesterday. The undertaking comes a day after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop signalled Australia’s desire to present a united front on the South China Sea with Indonesia to encourage China to “respect international law and resolve disputes peacefully”.

Ms Bishop flew into Jakarta yesterday and headed straight into a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Ms Marsudi to discuss his planned state visit to Australia next month.

International Criminal LawAs 3 African Nations Vow to Exit, International Court Faces Its Own Trial (NYT, 26 October 2016)

The International Criminal Court has begun investigating war crimes in Georgia, is looking into British soldiers accused of torture in Iraq and, in one of its most politically delicate missions yet, sent a team to Israel to discuss crimes in Gaza. But as the court tries to expand into new geography and investigate new types of crimes, it faces the most serious challenge to its existence: Three nations, all from Africa, have announced that they will no longer work with the tribunal, intensifying a longstanding debate over whether it is biased against the continent. In October, Gambia, announced its intention to pull out of the tribunal, denouncing it on state television as the “international Caucasian court.” The planned withdrawal carried an extra barb: Gambia is the home country of the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. Before that, Burundi announced its plans to withdraw, months after Ms. Bensouda announced that she would open a preliminary examination into the killings of antigovernment protesters there. But most damaging for the court, one of its early champions, South Africa, announced it would leave, too, saying that the court’s writ was “incompatible” with its ability to resolve political conflicts in its neighborhood.

International Economic LawVietnam's reluctance to ratify the TPP is bad news for Washington (Nikkei Asia, 27 October 2016)

Vietnam's decision to hold off ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a further blow to the beleaguered trade pact and a setback for American economic ambitions in Asia.

The 12-nation TPP is aimed at liberalizing trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, and Vietnam has been hoping that its participation in the deal will lead to an increase in exports. But even in the U.S., which led negotiations for the pact, approval of the TPP is nowhere in sight. This apparently convinced Vietnam to proceed slowly as well. An official in the secretariat of the Vietnamese parliament told reporters on Oct. 18 that approval of the TPP is not on the agenda for the current legislative session, which runs through late November, making it certain that the country will not ratify the pact this year. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, chairwoman of the parliament, said in September that Vietnam's ratification would depend on factors such as moves by other negotiating members of the TPP and the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election in the U.S.

At the same time, the Philippines, which was considering joining the TPP after Vietnam, has apparently changed its stance in recent weeks, moving away from Washington and closer to Beijing. With ratification of the TPP looking more likely to stall in a number of countries, the influence of the U.S. in Asia appears to be rapidly weakening.

What the China Trade Warriors Get Wrong (WSJ, 26 October 2016)

After three intense presidential debates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trumpmanaged to agree on at least one thing: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is bad for America, in part because many trade deals have supposedly caused trade deficits. Unfortunately, they’re both wrong. The country would be better served by candidates who speak frankly about the complexity of international commerce—rather than offer murky platitudes about supposedly harmful trade agreements. The U.S. had a $334.1 billion trade deficit with China in 2015, including services, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. It also had a $77.3 billion deficit with Germany and $55.4 billion with Japan. What do all these countries have in common? None have trade agreements with the U.S. Mr. Trump can’t “renegotiate” trade deals that were never negotiated. The U.S. also maintains trade surpluses with many countries. It ran a $31.7 billion trade surplus with Hong Kong last year, $12 billion with the United Kingdom and $17.5 billion with Singapore. Although a few trade surplus partners have free-trade agreements with the U.S., it would be incongruous to attribute both surpluses and deficits to such accords. This bipartisan hullabaloo about some alleged link between trade deals and trade deficits is simply false—politically convenient fiction.

International OrganizationsThe Philippines, China, the U.S., and ASEAN in 2017 (Asia Foundation, 19 October 2016)

The Philippines will serve as ASEAN Chair in 2017, at which time ASEAN will mark its 50th anniversary. Having successfully served as host of APEC in 2015, the country has demonstrated that facilitating massive, significant international events is well within its capability—thus observers’ attention can focus on substance instead of administrative details. And there is considerable attention directed to the Philippines at the moment, not least because of the outspoken new president, Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippines is expected to have the fastest growth for the second year in a row among the five major economies in ASEAN. The president’s economic managers, and their foreign interlocutors, continue to focus on continuity of macro-policies and they are expected to intensify efforts to ensure that growth becomes more inclusive in order to reduce stubbornly high levels of poverty.

ASEAN legal website set to launch (Bangkok Post, 23 October 2016)

An online legal site offering information about the laws and regulations of the ASEAN member countries will be launched with free access early next year, Office of the Judiciary deputy secretary-general Sarawut Benjakul said. The site, which will be launched in all 10 countries, will perform as a legal information hub for the ASEAN region.

AsianSIL Announcements and Events

Save The Date:
AsianSIL Sixth Biennial Conference 2017
Seoul, Korea
August 25-26, 2017

The 6th Biennial Asian Society of International Law Conference will be held in Seoul from 25 to 26 August 2017. The Call for Papers and other details of the conference will be forthcoming. Please watch this space – we hope to see as many of you in Seoul next year!

Save The Date: International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators (ICMA XX) 2017
Copenhagen, Denmark
September 25-29, 2017

An important event in every maritime and commercial arbitrator's calendar, the International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators (ICMA) is a forum for maritime arbitrators, lawyers and for the shipping industry from around the world in which to deliberate on and exchange views and news of professional interest. It is a series of conferences which are held every 2 or 3 years in the spirit of a joint effort to promote maritime arbitration all over the world. For more information, please click here.

Call for Submissions – Asian Journal of International Law

The Society’s Journal is soliciting submissions for future issues. Articles should be between 8,000 and 12,000 words (excluding footnotes) and be submitted exclusively to the AsianJIL, with publication subject to double-blind peer-review and editorial discretion. For details on style and the submission process, as well as information on how to subscribe, visit For enquiries, please email Many articles are available FREE for download at We encourage readers to make full use of this opportunity to access the latest international law scholarship. Please also visit our Facebook page and recommend AsianJIL to your friends and colleagues.

NUS Centre for International Law (CIL) ASEAN Documents Database

The ASEAN Documents Database is a free, user-friendly, internet resource of selected ASEAN and International Law Documents. About than 600 selected ASEAN documents and 260 International Law documents are now included in the database. Please click here to access the database.

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