Mekong Region Legal Studies

Cambodia - Guangxi - Laos - Myanmar - Thailand - Vietnam - Yunnan

CMLC’s Mekong Region Legal Studies Program (MRLSP) brings together students from throughout the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) for collaborative study of subjects of domestic and international public law, as well as other courses designed to prepare future lawyers to serve vulnerable or disadvantaged communities in Southeast Asia. The MRLSP endeavors to cultivate a cadre of professionals who will work in government, for civil society organizations, or as private lawyers protecting and supporting weaker segments of society.

CMLC launched its first experimental implementation of the MRLSP during spring semester 2016 (in cooperation with Thammasat University, Faculty of Law, Lampang Campus). This initial pilot was attended by two students from China, two students from Myanmar, two students from Thailand and two students from Vietnam. The program was praised by the attending students, who remain in contact and represent our first cadre of connected professionals working in the GMS. Our second pilot was completed at Thailand’s Khon Kaen University, Faculty of Integrated Social Sciences, Nongkhai Campus (autumn semester 2018), with 15 students: Three Cambodians, two Chinese, two Lao, two Myanmar, two Thai and four Vietnamese. All students attending the MRLSP experiment pilots have at least three-years legal training in their home countries, most already at graduate level, positioning the students to gain the most from MRLSP’s curriculum.

Currently, the MRLSP serves as the first semester of a future LL.M. degree program in Mekong Region Legal Studies, with an expected Masters degree launch date of autumn 2021. Students that demonstrated superior performance in the preliminary semester programs will be invited back to complete the LL.M. degree. Two of our best performing students in the 2018 MRLSP are currently under consideration for scholarship support to study in the U.S. starting August 2020.

The Faculty of Integrated Social Science at Khon Kaen University, Nongkhai Campus is a supportive and eager partner for the MRLSP, and provides an excellent location and platform for transforming the Mekong Region Legal Studies Program into a unique, comprehensive graduate level legal studies program. Related initiatives include annual symposia on subjects of law relevant to the GMS, a Mekong Region research paper series and a consortium of supporting regional law schools.

Students in the MRLSP currently attend four courses as follows:

Introduction to the Chinese Legal System (3 credits)

This course explores the fundamental structure and operation of the Chinese legal system, offering a critical perspective on the development of law in China and providing students with the basic training necessary to work with Chinese law on a deeper and practical level. The course covers the historical development of the Chinese legal system, the relevant institutions responsible for the formation and application of law in China (and associated legislative and judicial processes) and issues of Chinese law, society, and culture. Subjects also include constitutionalism in China, Chinese administrative law, Chinese overseas direct investment, Chinese family law, women and the law, and lawyering in China.

Comparative Study of Mekong Region Legal Systems (3 Credits)

This course introduces the legal systems of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, offering a comparative perspective on the various ways that legal systems develop. Students will learn the sources of law for each country and each country’s institutional framework for both the formation and implementation of law. Emphasis is on common problems affecting all these countries and different methods for solving social conflict.

Comparative Government Procurement Law (3 Credits)

On average, government procurement represents 20% of a country’s economic activity. This course employs case law analysis to demonstrate the similar legislative frameworks, but very different operating environments, for public contracting in the U.S., China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries. Students not only learn the basics of government procurement law, but also explore very different administrative systems. Topics include coverage of government procurement law, authority of government agents, ethical rules and counter-corruption in government procurement, social policies in government procurement, choice of procurement procedures, bid challenges, contractor debarment, and issues of public contract performance.

Project Design and Grant Proposal Writing (3 Credits)

Lawyers are expected to contribute to the public good. Some lawyers meet this obligation by simply representing underprivileged groups at no charge (pro bono). Others prefer to work for NGOs on law related projects or other public service initiatives. Some lawyers even develop their own projects to better society. This course introduces the student to the process of developing law-related projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged individuals and communities. Students will learn how to identify social problems in need of resolution and how to develop effective and sustainable strategies to solve or mitigate the impact of such social problems. Importantly, students will also learn the basics of drafting a grant proposal for funding to successfully implement their designed projects, including drafting a compelling mission statement, creating a realistic budget, reporting back to funders, and measuring project outcomes.

Teaching Law in Context

All MRLSP course stress law in context; teaching students to serve as lawyers for disadvantaged individuals/groups and vulnerable populations with respect to how law actually operates in the various Greater Mekong Subregion countries, identifying, but not relying, on the aspirational components of how law should be, as taught in many Asian law school curricula. A comparative and cross-border focus underlays all MRLSP courses.

Students attending the MRLSP do so at no expense to the student. CMLC provides all funding for their participation, including housing and a very humble living stipend, so that students are not denied this innovative learning opportunity just because they lack adequate funds. CMLC hopes to continue this scholarship support as the MRLSP transforms into a two-year degree program, targeting 20 students for full scholarship, and reasonable tuition fees for another 20 students who otherwise do not qualify for assistance. Outside financial support for this initiative is thus indispensable, so please donate.

The next step for the MRLSP is further curriculum development with a focus on specialized course offerings relevant to the GMS (and not readily available in Asian law schools). These include:

  1. Migrant Labor Law;
  2. Microcredit and Financial Inclusiveness;
  3. Riparian Law and Managing Shared Water Resources;
  4. Civil Society Organizations and Public Participation in Development (course design already completed pursuant to a generous grant from the            International Center for Not-For-Profit Law);
  5. Land Use and Environmental/Wildlife Protection;
  6. Border Trade;
  7. Human Trafficking, Stateless Persons and Refugee Law; and
  8. Agriculture Law: Everything You Need to Know to Represent Rural Communities

The MRLSP appreciates any support, financial or in-kind, for developing course materials and identifying and/or sponsoring legal experts to come teach in the MRLSP. Finding qualified professionals to teach the above enumerated courses is obviously a challenge, but one worth overcoming to train a new era of lawyers who can adequately and ethically represent disadvantaged communities, solving or mitigating impacts from the extraordinary problems facing the peoples of the GMS. Providing support for curriculum development and visiting faculty eases pressures on China-Mekong Law Center, sustaining student scholarships for worthy Mekong Region law students. Over time, local faculty will develop the skills to teach these high-level courses reducing reliance on visiting experts.

We hope you agree that the Mekong Region Legal Studies Program is a unique and valuable learning opportunity for the future stewards of the Greater Mekong Subregion. Please help us bring this opportunity to as many GMS students as possible. Thank you.

Please help us bring this opportunity to as many GMS students as possible

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