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Southeast Asian Legal Research Guide: Regional & Comparative Resources

This guide

This Guide will help you research the legal systems of the 10 South East Asian nations that comprise The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. For information about ASEAN and human rights, see the South East Asian page on our Human Rights Research Guide. 

The Legal Systems of South East Asian Nations

The Legal Systems of South East Asian Nations. Image source: Juriglobe

Legal Systems of SE Asian Nations

Legal Systems in ASEAN (open access) - from the ASEAN Law Association. Note that only 7 countries are so far included (not Cambodia, Lao PDR or Myanmar). For each jurisdiction, there are chapters on: Historical Overview, Sources of Law, Government and the State, Legal Procedure and The Legal Profession.

The Foreign Law Guide (UniMelb staff & student access) covers all ASEAN jurisdictions. You can search or browse by jurisdiction or subject. Each jurisdiction includes:

  • introductory information on the Government & Legal System, Legal History, Legislation and the Judicial System, and lists primary sources and in what format these are available (including open access online sources) - including official Gazettes, legislation, law reports, and a bibliography of secondary sources such as books. 
  • a list of laws arranged alphabetically by topic.

Juriglobe - World Legal Systems (open access) includes the following alphabetical, graphical and statistical distributions for all countries:

Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia - on HEIN (UniMelb staff & student access). Although dated, the scholarly chapters provide excellent and detailed information about each of the 10 ASEAN countries.

Research Guides

Globalex Research Guides (open access) are excellent and up to date overviews of the legal systems of individual countries, guides to legal research and links to primary and secondary material in 9 of the 10 ASEAN nations (not Brunei).

See also on Globalex:

Jeong Chung Phuoc, Sharīʿah Law in South East Asian (ASEAN) Region: Business and Religion - An Exploratory Introduction (2017)

Library of Congress Guide to Law Online provides brief information on the legal systems of the 10 ASEAN nations and links to open access sources for legislation and cases. 

Guide Author

This Research Guide is maintained by Robin Gardner, MLS Academic Research Service, Melbourne Law School. Please contact Robin at law-academicresearch@unimelb.edu.au with corrections, suggestions or comments about the Guide.

General Country Information

Use the following resources to find general country information about the 10 countries in this guide - history, demographics, economy, government etc.

Europa World Plus (UniMelb staff & student access):

  • Use the Countries/Territories tab on the top menu for information on individual ASEAN nations.
  • Use the Comparative Statistics tab on the left hand menu to compare two or more countries on specific topics.
  • Use the Regions tab on the top menu to access the Far East and Australasia database - this includes introductory information, topical chapters and chapters on organisations, including ASEAN and APEC. 

The Human Rights in ASEAN -  Online Platform (open access) includes country information on all 10 ASEAN Member States

CIA World Factbook (open access) includes country information for all 10 ASEAN countries. The World Factbook Guide to Country Comparisons compares all countries in 80 topic areas under the main headings of Geography, People and Society, Economy, Energy, Communications, Military, Transportation.

Australian Government DFAT Country Briefs.

Doing Business in South East Asia

ASEAN

This box provides general information about ASEAN. For information about ASEAN and human rights, see the South East Asian page on our Human Rights Research Guide. 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration), which set outs the aims and purposes of ASEAN. 

More about the history, establishment, structure and activities of ASEAN.

The 10 ASEAN Member States have adopted a set of fundamental principles, as contained in the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).

The ASEAN Community comprises three pillars, the ASEAN Political-Security CommunityASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

The ASEAN Charter entered into force on 15 December 2008. It is the foundation for achieving the ASEAN Community by providing the legal status of and institutional framework for ASEAN. It also codifies ASEAN norms, rules and values, sets clear targets for ASEAN; and presents accountability and compliance.

Rule of Law in ASEAN

Update on the Rule of Law for Human Rights in ASEAN: The Path to Integration (2016) - includes detailed chapters on all ASEAN nations.

See also:

  • the Human Rights in ASEAN website. Select Country Background from the top menu. Each country has a section on the Rule of Law & Human Rights.