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Legal Aid in South-East Asia and China: Seven Lessons of Bangkok

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image of Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law

Between 10–14 June 1999, Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia took part in, and summed up a forum on legal aid in Asia held in Bangkok, Thailand. Participants were drawn from centres throughout the region. The forum was organised by the Washington-based International Human Rights Law Group and the Hong Kong based Asian Human Rights Commission - two human rights non-governmental organisations. In his summary Justice Kirby drew on the interventions made during the forum by legal practitioners from the participating states. He suggests a number of lessons and themes for future exploration. His chief point is simple. It applies as much in Australia as in its region. Without affordable and effective access to independent, neutral and professional courts, talk of the rule of law is hollow and liable to be deceptive.


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