Objectives | Organisational Structure | Finance | Brief History | Membership


Video: Bridging Legal Borders: 25 Years of Legal Cooperation & Friendship
(Prepared by ALA Philippines for the ALA 25th Anniversary Special Commemorative Session in Manila, 2005):

The ASEAN Law Association had its origin in a conference, “Legal Development in ASEAN Countries”, hosted by the Indonesian Government in Jakarta in February 1979. The conference was attended by legal luminaries from the original five ASEAN countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

When Professor Tan Sook Yee and Senator Edgardo Angara proposed the creation of a regional organization for lawyers in the ASEAN region, the proposal was met with the unanimous acclaim of delegates at the Conference, who felt that ASEAN lawyers had a pivotal role to play in promoting greater ASEAN cooperation. Towards that end, it was resolved that the ASEAN Law Association (ALA) should be established. Thus, the ALA was established in the summer of 1979.

The ALA Constitution and By-laws were drafted by a working committee in May 1979, promulgated in Kuala Lumpur and adopted at the First General Assembly of the ALA held in Manila in November 1980 at the Philippine International Convention Centre in Manila. The First General Assembly also saw Senator Angara and Dr Teuku Mohammad Radhie elected as President and Secretary-General, respectively, of the ALA. The ALA Governing Council and the ALA Secretariat also convened for the first time.

The main objectives of ALA, as set out in Article II of the Constitution, are: (a) To promote close relations, cooperation and mutual understanding amongst lawyers in the ASEAN countries;

(b) To provide the organisational framework for regional cooperation;

(c) To provide organisational facilities for ASEAN cooperation in conflict avoidance, in the arbitration or resolution of legal disputes in transnational contracts within the ASEAN region; and

(d) To cooperate with international, regional, national and other organisations in the furtherance of the aforementioned objectives.


In order to carry out its task, ALA established five Standing Committees. The task of each Standing Committee is to conduct studies on matters relevant to legal cooperation among ASEAN countries in their respective fields. The Standing Committees also suggest topics for the General Assemblies. The Standing Committees were re-organised by the Governing Council at its Meeting in June 1990 at Pattaya; the Governing Council felt that the Standing Committee on Harmonisation of Laws was duplicating the work of all the other Standing Committees, and abolished it, establishing in its place a new Standing Committee on Legal Profession. The existing seven Standing Committees are on Judicial Cooperation; International Law; Legal Profession; Business Law; Legal Education; Legal Information; and Alternative Dispute Resolution.

To facilitate sustained communication and cooperation, an 8-volume ASEAN Comparative Law Series was published by the U.P. Law Center. A programme of exchange scholars was initiated in order to develop a network of lecturers on vital topics of common interest with ASEAN.

To ensure the Association's viability and development, the ASEAN Law Foundation, Inc was incorporated under Philippine law on 21 January 1982. The purpose of the Foundation is to establish and maintain a Foundation for the promotion of the cultural, social and charitable objectives of ALA such as legal research and training, cultural exchange programmes, comparative law studies, scholarship grants, maintaining professorial chairs, establishing legal aid programs and seminar activities.

In September 1982, under the auspices of the Philippine National Committee with the assistance of the University of the Philippines Law Center, the first issue of the ASEAN Law Journal was published. Professor Dr. O.C. Hligis (ALA Indonesia) made a bequest that led to the publication of the fifth and subsequent issues. The ASEAN Law Journal, along with the ALA Newsletter, are published to promote the cultural, social and charitable objectives of ALA, e.g., legal research and training and comparative law studies.

In 1982, at the initiative of then ALA President, the late Lord President of Malaysia, Tun Mohammed Suffian, the germinal seeds of ALA's publication, "ASEAN Legal Systems" were sown. The objective was to put together a concise yet comprehensive and authoritative reference to the legal systems of nations in the ASEAN region, which would allow readers to gain a deeper insight into how the rule of law has brought each nation closer to the attainment of democratic ideals and aspirations. In 1987, during the Presidency of Chief Justice Sansern Kraichitti, "Legal Systems in the ASEAN Region" was published, covering only 2 ASEAN legal systems. It was to take no less than 13 years of committed collaborative labours before the authoritative volume, "ASEAN Legal Systems" was finally published in hard copy by the Singapore National Committee, in 1995, during the presidency of the late Chief Justice of the Philippines, Marcelo B Fernan.

At the Third General Assembly, held in Singapore in November 1984, the General Assembly unanimously resolved to invite lawyers from Brunei Darussalam (which by then had become a full member of ASEAN) to participate in the work of the ALA.

In 1985, the Law Professional Exchange Programme was initiated through the sponsorship of the Asia Foundation. Under the programme, Justice Minister Ricardo C. Puno of the Philippines, Dr Apirat Petchsiri of Thailand and Dr Sunaryati Hartono of Indonesia visited ASEAN countries to give lectures on the legal systems in their respective countries.

ASEAN Ministers of Justice and ASEAN Ministers of Law attended the Fourth General Assembly, held in November 1986 in Bangkok, Thailand. With the admission of Brunei Darussalam's lawyers to ALA, a new logo proposed by Malaysia was approved by the Assembly.

In December 1994, a Regional Symposium was organised in Cebu City, Philippines where lectures were delivered discussing the "General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Uruguay Round)" and "Intellectual Property Rights".

To encourage yet further exchange, in particular concerning the business laws of ASEAN countries, the "ASEAN Business Law Programme" was launched in September 1996. Involving two 2-week-long modules in Quezon City, Philippines, the Programme was designed to enable participants to acquire a grasp of the main features of the economic laws of each ASEAN country.

At the Eighth General Assembly in Singapore, held in Nov-Dec 2003, Lao PDR and Vietnam were formally inducted as members of ALA. Cambodia was inducted as a member of ALA during the Ninth General Assembly held in Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2006, while Myanmar was inducted into the ALA at the 35th Governing Council Meeting held in Singapore in August 2013.

The ALA celebrated its Silver Jubilee in a big way with a 25th Anniversary Special Commemorative Session held in Manila, Philippines from 24-27 November 2005. The Special Session commemorated ALA's birth 25 years earlier with the presentation of Awards of Recognition to key players in ALA's history. The ALA Anniversary Yearbook, the ALA website, the e-book on Legal Systems in ASEAN, and the ALA Anthem were also launched at this Special Session. The ALA Website (maintained by ALA Singapore) was launched to promote international awareness of the existence of ALA and its activities, disseminate information related to ALA, and serve as a digital repository of ALA’s publications. The ALA Website also hosts the ALA Members Directory and the ASEAN Law Firms Directory, which is a directory of law firms which are institutional members of ALA or whose partners are members of ALA.

Mr T P B Menon, the ALA President from 1984 to 1986, recited a brief history of ALA in verse during the dinner held in conjunction with the 29th Governing Council Meeting held in Penang on 2 August 2008.  The original composition by Mr Menon is entitled "An Offering to ALA", and in honour of the founder members of ALA.

The ALA has been commended by the ASEAN Law Ministers Meeting for its invaluable contribution to legal scholarship in the region, in particular in the area of legal aspects of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA).

Working Committee established in Feb 1979, Jakarta

Indonesia Sunaryati Hartono

Datuk Harun M. Hashim

Ahmad Ibrahim


Felix Q. Antonio

Serafin E. Camilon

Edgardo J. Angara

Marcelo B. Fernan


Tan Sook Yee

T.P.B. Menon

Chao Hick Tin

Thailand Kiethajorn Vachanasvasti
Interim Secretary-General Teuku M. Radhie
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