Newsletter 2017/6
Newsletter 2017/6



DISPUTE SETTLEMENT ­– Permanent Court of Arbitration to set up office in Singapore (PCA, 25 July 2017)

The Singapore Ministry of Law and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) announced today that the PCA will set up a staffed office in Singapore to administer PCA hearings held in Singapore and Asia. The Singapore office will be the PCA’s first office in Asia, and the second outside its Hague headquarters. Read the Joint Press Release dated 25 July 2017 for more information.

Malaysia requests an interpretation of the Judgment of 23 May 2008 in the case concerning Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore) (ICJ Press Release, 30 June 2017)

Malaysia has filed an Application requesting interpretation of the Judgment delivered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 23 May 2008 in the case concerning Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore). As basis of its request for interpretation, Malaysia invoked Article 60 of the Statute of the Court, which provides that “[i]n the event of a dispute as to the meaning or scope of the judgment, the Court shall construe it upon the request of any party”. It also invoked Article 98 of the Rules of the Court.

HUMAN RIGHTSBack from visit to Myanmar, independent UN rights expert says situation 'worsening' (UN News, 24 July 2017)

In a statement from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee accused national authorities of “presiding over a worsening security and human rights situation” in the country. Ms. Lee said she catalogued a list of concerns during her 12 day visit to the country, which was held at the invitation of the Government, which also included the use of human shields by security forces and deaths in custody. “I am disappointed to see the tactics applied by the previous Government still being used,” said Ms. Lee, who wrapped up her visit on 21 July.

Australia's offshore refugee processing causes 'extensive suffering' and must end, says UN agency chief (UN News, 24 July 2017)

Four years on, Australia's offshore processing has left some 2,000 people languishing in unacceptable circumstances – causing physical and psychological harm, according to the United Nations refugee agency, which has called for an immediate end to the practice. “Australia's policy of offshore processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, which denies access to asylum in Australia for refugees arriving by sea without a valid visa, has caused extensive, avoidable suffering for far too long,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement. In light of the dire humanitarian situation that includes separating families, last November the High Commissioner's Office, UNHCR, exceptionally agreed to help relocate refugees to the United States following a bilateral agreement between that country and Australia.

Human rights defenders in Viet Nam should 'never be treated as criminals,' says UN rights office (UN News, 24 July 2017)

Noting that well-known activist Tran Thi Nga was sentenced to nine years' imprisonment and five years' house arrest for so-called “anti-State propaganda” for comments posted online, Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed “serious concerns about the severity of the sentence and the conduct of the trial, which does not appear to have met due process standards.” “Human rights defenders should never be treated as criminals who are a threat to national security,” she told reporters at the regular bi-weekly news briefing in Geneva. In accordance with provisions of article 88 of Viet Nam's Penal Code, Tran was kept in incommunicado detention for some six months – from her arrest in January until a few days before the trial. Tran was not allowed adequate time to prepare her defence, the trial lasted just one day and her family and friends were denied entry to the courtroom, according to the UN rights office.

Singapore disputes US human trafficking report (Straits Times, 30 July 2017)

Singapore has taken issue with an annual report by the US State Department for depicting an inaccurate and less positive picture of the human trafficking situation here. An inter-agency task force co-chaired by the Home Affairs and Manpower ministries said there were 17 sex and labour trafficking victims identified last year, lower than the 33 cited in the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The task force also disputed the number of trafficking suspects prosecuted and convicted.

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC LAW – China, EU seek to strengthen WTO trade remedy, notification disciplines (WTO News, 14 July 2017)

China has put forward a new proposal aimed at strengthening WTO disciplines on transparency and due process in anti-dumping and countervailing proceedings, while the European Union has offered a new initiative on improving the reporting of subsidy programmes to the WTO. The two proposals were discussed at a 14 July informal meeting of the WTO’s Negotiating Group on Rules (NGR).

INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS – At 50, ASEAN is a neighbourhood, not yet community (Jakarta Post, 29 July 2017)

South-east Asian countries today are far more integrated than they have ever been in the modern history of the region, but ASEAN has some way to go before it can call itself a real community. The 10 member countries grouped in ASEAN are glued together more because of their geographical proximity, and out of that perhaps comes a sense of shared destiny. But a community, where members have shared values and principles, ASEAN is not. For now, it is looking more like a neighbourhood. It's a neighbourhood of nations, big and small, rich and poor, at different stages of economic and political development, and they are already trading with one another more and more.

The ASEAN Economic Community: A work in progress (Manila Times, 29 July 2017)

According to the AEC Blueprint 2015, the aim is “to transform ASEAN into a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy.” The ASEAN Economic Community remains very much a work in progress. As critics noted of the implementation of the ASEAN Blueprint 2015, levels of integration vary greatly by sector. The free flow of goods among ASEAN member countries continues to be limited by the use of non-tariff measures (NTMs). While minimizing NTMs is an action target in the ASEAN Blueprint 2015, the voluntary approach taken has met with limited success.

ASEAN Economic Community fails to bridge skills gap (Asia Times, 31 July 2017)

Almost three million Southeast Asian professionals are working in Europe, North America and Oceania at a time when their home region is bidding to bridge skills gaps by facilitating greater labor mobility within its borders through the newly enacted Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community (AEC). The region’s skills divide is stark. Singapore (13) is the only Southeast Asian country ranked in the top 20 in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Human Capital Report for the quality of its workforce; Myanmar is rated 109th of 130 countries assessed, Laos 106th and Cambodia 100th. Malaysia (42), Thailand (48) and the Philippines (49) fall somewhere in the middle.

See also: Nontariff measures hinder AEC realization, ADB economists say (Business Mirror, 24 July 2017)

LAW OF THE SEA – ASEAN, China Expected to Approve Agreement on South China Sea (Voice of America, 28 July 2017)

China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, are set to approve a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea. ASEAN foreign ministers are expected to approve the document next week during a meeting in the Philippines. China’s foreign minister also will attend. The conference begins August 2 in Manila. The Philippines currently holds the chairmanship of ASEAN.

Xi Jinping personally behind island-building in the South China Sea (South China Morning Post, 28 July 2017)

An editorial in Study Times – put out by the Central Party School, the Communist Party’s top academy – was the latest to lavish praise on Xi for his tough stance on territorial issues with the country’s Asian neighbours. “[President Xi] personally steered a series of measures to expand [China’s] strategic advantage and safeguard the national interests,” the article said. “On the South China Sea issue, [Xi] personally made decisions on building islands and consolidating the reefs, and setting up the city of Sansha. [These decisions] fundamentally changed the strategic situation of the South China Sea.”

What’s in a Name? South China Sea Claimants Seek to Remove ‘China’ (Voice of America, 24 July 2017)

Some nations have renamed parts of the South China Sea to strengthen their claims over the disputed waterway. But how much effect do such changes have on territorial disagreements? Indonesia is the latest country to take such action. Officials there recently released a new map showing the renamed North Natuna Sea. The sea, northwest of Borneo island, includes an internationally recognized economic zone belonging to Indonesia. China claims territory that overlaps part of Indonesia’s economic zone. Last month, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo visited the disputed sea area. His visit came a week after an Indonesian navy ship fired warning shots at Chinese fishing boats in the area.

See also:

Indonesia is protecting its South China Sea territory against 'foreign' threats (CNBC, 18 July 2017);

Vietnam asks Indonesia to investigate South China Sea shooting (Reuters, 28 July 2017)

Philippines to consult ASEAN on joint China Sea oil search (CAN, 26 July 2017)

USE OF FORCE – North Korea: US says 'no value' in UN Security Council meeting (BBC, 31 July 2017)

The US says it will not call for a UN Security Council meeting over North Korea's missile tests because it would produce "nothing of consequence". Such a meeting would send a message to North Korea that the international community was unwilling to challenge it, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said. Pyongyang said its tests proved that the entire US was within range. The US has responded by testing an anti-missile system and flying bombers over the Korean peninsula.

US, allies prepared to use 'overwhelming force' in North Korea, general says (Fox News, 30 July 2017)

The statement from Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, came after the militaries of the U.S., South Korea and Japan spent 10 hours conducting bomber-jet drills over the Korean Peninsula. The training mission was a response to North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches and nuclear program, and part of the U.S. regular commitment to defending its allies in the Asia-Pacific region, the general’s statement said. "The time for talk is over. The danger the North Korean regime poses to international peace is now clear to all," said United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley in a statement.


6th AsianSIL Biennial Conference, Seoul, Korea, 25-26 August 2017

The 6th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law will be in Seoul, Friday 25 to Saturday 26 August 2017. The conference will be hosted by the Korean Chapter of the Asian Society of International Law, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea. The theme of the conference is “Asia and International Law in Times of Uncertainty”. The biennial conference will be preceded by a half-day workshop for junior scholars on Thursday, 24 August. Click here for more details.

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.

New International and Comparative Law Quarterly Discounted Subscription Rate for AsianSIL Members

AsianSIL members can now benefit from a heavily discounted personal subscription to the International & Comparative Law Quarterly. To obtain an annual online and print subscription for £75/$98, AsianSIL members should email<> and request the Asian Society of International Law discount rate.

 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.