The National University of Singapore, Southeast Asia’s premier law faculty, recently opened a Centre for International Law (CIL). Unlike most centers for international law, this one seems destined to focus on Southeast Asia in particular. In fact, one of the CIL’s first projects is “Integration through Law: The ASEAN Way in a Comparative Context.” You can read the project’s mission statement online.
ASEAN has consistently lacked any sense of legal institutionalization. For 40 years, it has really been just a “talk-shop.” The new ASEAN Charter was intended to provide the region with a legal identity (i.e., in theory ASEAN can now be sued). However, the region still has a multiplicity of legal systems, so any deeper legal integration will likely take some time. The new CIL and other projects* will probably play an important role because, quite frankly, most scholarship on ASEAN has focused on political and economic rather than legal aspects.
* The ASEAN Lawyers Association seems like it should be playing a leading role in this field, but from what I can tell it’s mostly a networking club. Does anybody know whether they are involved in ASEAN legal initiatives (besides the Thailand Reconciliation Project)?