Document Type

Book Chapter


Issues of legal development in Asia have been making unusual headlines for the last few years. At first, this was a result of the Asian Crisis that was blamed among other things on a lack of transparency in the legal infrastructure supporting businesses in various Asian economies. More recently, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Indonesia and elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia, attention has shifted from economic issues to issues of security. In this context as well, law and law enforcement in Asian developing countries has come under intense scrutiny. One of the prime examples is Indonesia. A frequently-heard view is that Indonesia really is a lawless country, that is, a country that still lacks a functioning legal system. This view is certainly becoming more widespread since the many negative headlines of the past few years, from corruption scandals over the Tommy Suharto trial to the bombings in Bali, Jakarta and other places. Sometimes, observers add a further question: 'Why is it that we are only finding this out now?' This second question could be re-interpreted as meaning: 'How is it that a country that until recently was building airplanes and has been setting up stock markets could do so without a functioning legal system?' In the first part of this chapter, I will try to answer these questions by pointing to the use of law in the development efforts of various countries in Asia. This section provides a departure point for the second part, in which I will summarise the impact of the Asian Crisis and the subsequent law reform debate. My treatment of the reform debate will only be very brief and I will refer for details to other chapters in this volume. In the final part of this chapter, I will raise the question of what the policies after September 11, 2001 will mean for the ongoing debate about both law and globalisation in Asia. The Asian Crisis of 1997 and the events of September 11, 2001 were important events that influenced law-making and law reform in various Asian countries, albeit in different areas of law.