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Southeast Asia

From its regional headquarters in Bangkok, ICJ has been working for several years to improve the rule of law and respect for human rights in Southeast Asia.The region has shown remarkable economic and political growth in the past decade, but the development has been uneven, with significant reverses in terms of the human rights situation as well as ongoing failures to respond to demands for justice and accountability.

Economic development in the region has been remarkable, but it has resulted in increased disparities. Several countries in the region are undergoing dramatic shifts that could result in greater respect for human rights, chief among them Myanmar (Burma), but experience from the region, for instance in Cambodia and Indonesia, demonstrates that the transitional process is not irreversible and requires constant vigilance and commitment to human rights if it is to be effective.

Long-standing armed conflicts have resulted in erosion of the rule of law (for instance, in southern Thailand and in the Mindanao region of the Philippines); ICJ works in such areas with human rights defenders, lawyers, judges, and military officials to promote respect for the rights of all.


The ten countries of Southeast Asia are working toward greater regional integration under the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). ICJ works directly with ASEAN as a developing institution, and with individual countries, to ensure that human rights principles are fairly included and implemented in this process. We also promote closer collaboration and support for human rights defenders, in particular lawyers, working in the ASEAN countries.

The ICJ has been engaging with ASEAN as it struggles to develop a human rights mechanism. If established properly, such a mechanism could improve the situation dramatically; conversely, a mechanism that falls short of current international standards and best practices would be, at best, irrelevant to the lives of the region’s people, and at worst, set back respect for human rights in the region and the world.

Security laws

Despite relative stability and security, many countries in Southeast Asia suffer from restrictive security measures that restrict and violate human rights. ICJ is challenging this problematic framework at the national and regional levels, including in conflict areas such as Southern Thailand, Mindanao in the Philippines, and Myanmar (Burma).

Human Rights Defenders

The nascent regional government framework lends itself to greater regional collaboration among human rights defenders, and in particular, lawyers and legal activists. Despite linguistic barriers and disparate legal systems, the region’s human rights legal activists have demonstrated that they can increase the impact of their work by working together, and ICJ is helping them through legal analysis, litigation support, international and regional advocacy, and where needed, support for individual lawyers and human rights defenders facing persecution.

Access to Justice

ICJ works to identify the numerous barriers to justice in the region and to remove these barriers through advocacy, legal reform, and litigation. We work with judges and judicial academies to build the capacity of jurists to support and implement human rights protections. We also work with lawyers and grass-roots organizations to educate people about their rights and improve their ability to demand these rights within the legal system.