Interview with Prof. Narong Jaiharn, former Dean of the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University
From June 2013-July 2016 Prof. Narong Jaiharn was Dean of the Faculty of Law of Thammasat University, the host of CPG. In the interview below he informs about studying law at Thammasat Faculty of Law in general and his term as Dean of the Faculty in particular.
Dean Narong, the Faculty of Law of Thammasat is known as the most prestigious law school in Thailand. What does the Faculty stand for which makes it so attractive to young people interested in legal studies?
There are several reasons which explain the attractiveness of Thammasat Faculty of Law. Firstly, our curriculum contains a wide range of elective subjects which offer students the possibility for specialization in those legal areas in which they are interested in working as a legal professional. According to our regulations 12 elective subjects are required to receive a certificate such as the certificate in the Criminal Law which qualifies for a legal profession as the police and the public prosecutor, for example. Another certificate which also enjoys high numbers of student enrollment is the certificate in Public Law, including Constitutional and Administrative Law. Students who have received this certificate work for example at the Parliament or for advisors of government and state agencies or administrative judges. The third certificate is the Business Law certificate, which qualifies them to work for business law firms. Besides these certificates, some of the elective courses provide the opportunity to engage in legal practice which makes it attractive to study law at Thammasat University. We offer two subjects on Moot Court and legal practice for which 50% of our students apply. Especially the Moot Court competition is a very interesting engagement and experience for our students. We motivated and supported them to take part in Thai and international competitions. In the last years our students joined three big international competitions: The first one is the Philipp C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition for which our students won the national contest in last two years to go to the final round in USA. The second one is the Asia Cup Moot. The third and latest one our students joined is the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Moot. These competitions are a good opportunity for our students to use their English skills and to find a team to go to these competitions. Attractive for our students is another aspect in our curriculum. In terms of law and society, we supported our students to learn more about “law in action”. Here our students are engaged in the question of what makes a lawyer a good lawyer in terms of professional ethics. Within the Faculty Assistant Professor Dr. Prinya and Associate Professor Dr. Pokpong are working on teaching strategies to sensitize the students for the real legal problems in society, for example equity and access to justice in the rural areas, and to discuss possible solutions.
What advice would you offer to students to become and remain good members of the legal community?
Law students should be interested in law and society, meaning social justice. In our students’ orientation events we had told them that if you study at law faculty you should not stay in the classroom only, but come in touch with the people or engage in the legal clinic to provide assistance to the poor. And, indeed, our students had joined the faculty’s activities in the frame of our “Law in Action”-project or in the course “Legal profession” of Ajarn Prinya. Besides that, in our international LL.B. Program in Business Law Assistant Professor Dr. Munin Pongsapan, the Director of the program, encouraged our students to engage in pro bono work. This is a cooperation of our faculty with the faculties of Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai University and National University of Singapore. Finally, I want to note that some of our students offer the courts the service as interpreter volunteer.
What were the challenges during your time as Dean?
Currently our faculty is facing the challenge of the globalization of legal studies and legal education. For example, within the ASEAN one of the challenges is how Thai law students can cope with the demands of the increasing internationalization of legal studies, now and in ten years, for example in the field of communication. That means that we have to teach the students not only in Thai language. In our courses we still focus on Thai law, so we teach in Thai, not in English. But not only ASEAN, the EU, China, Japan or Korea are also part of the international trend and this is a challenge, too. That means if someone tries to do a business in Thailand we need qualified lawyers to explain the Thai legal system in English, or in French or Japanese or Chinese. That’s the first challenge. The second challenge is the improvement of the ranking of our faculty. We aim to become one of the top hundred law schools in Asia, we have to do more research. And we have to write and publish articles which are qualified to be published in the top international law journals. In this regard our new dean is now putting great efforts and providing funding to support our faculty members to publish in English, and we hope that members of CPG and other foreign lecturers of our faculty will support us in this regard.
But on the other side I think you have also achieved a lot during your term as dean. Can you name some examples?
I think my achievement which includes our executive staffs is that we laid a focus on the internationalization of our faculty. We tried to establish cooperation with top universities around the world. For example, in Southeast Asia we work together with Singapore National University and the Indonesian Jambi University, Jember University, Surabaya University and University of Indonesia which is one of the best in Indonesia. In Malaysia it is the University of Malaya. Now we have begun to work on a co-operation with the University of Hanoi. We are planning to do a student and academic exchange visit this year. In East Asia, we have collaborated with several universities in Japan, among them are Kobe University, Keio University, Kyoto University and Chuo University which operates an overseas hub office at our faculty. In South Korea and
China we work together with Yonsei University, Sogang University and Dankook University. In China we have closed relation with SWUPL Chongqing University respectively. In the United Kingdom the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, East Anglia, Reading, SOAS, Nottingham and Dundee have cooperation agreements with us. Wisconsin University is another partner in the US where we are also in contact with the University of Indiana for cooperation. We have also visited New York University and even Yale University for discussions on cooperation. As for Australia, we arranged an international conference on constitutional law with the University of New England last year and have a student exchange and double PHD degree program with Macquarie University. And of course CPG; I have learned from CPG’s experience to cooperate with international partners so that we could have our own experience of international cooperation. And we hope to futher our cooperation in each area, we want to get partners in every continent.
This is an impressive number of cooperations. What kind of cooperation are covered?
We have basically tried to cooperate in 3 areas: First: Student exchange in three levels, bachelor, master and doctoral degree. Second: Lecturer exchange, some of our lecturers went to our partner law schools and we invited senior professors from our partner University to give lectures here. Third: International conferences or bilateral conferences of two universities. And let me add a last one: An international information exchange. This is our international concept. We want to continue in these areas to make our faculty of law an international one. And I thank CPG. We are very proud that CPG and the German government have been supporting us so much in this area and has extended this support. I think that it would be very good for our faculty if you can establish the Master program of the ASEAN School of Governance.
As you are now not any more burdened with the manifold time-consuming duties of a Dean and having more time to focus on your own academic work, what is currently your research field?
In my term as the dean I did not have enough time, indeed. But it is possible now, and my research focus on three areas. The first one is criminal law and criminal justice. I have recently submitted to the Ministry of Justice a proposal for a new law pertaining to the establishment of an assistance system for the victims of crime, and the Ministry of Justice accepted this proposal. The second area of my research is environmental law. I have done research for a draft law on the regulation of water management for the water department. And the third area is human rights in criminal process. I have done the initial country report for the implementation of the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and in the next two years, Thailand have to submit the second report, so may be the faculty of law is about to prepare this report.
And how would you spend your spare time now? Can you revive any hobbies which you were not able to enjoy to a wished extent under the tight work schedule of a Dean?
My hobby is to play football, but I don’t play very much nowadays, because I have no energy. So I’ll watch more movies and listen to music, mostly classical music, Thai classical music especially. And I like to travel.
So, now you have more time to spend with your family, I guess?
Yes, indeed, I spend more time with my family now. I have three sons. The oldest son has nearly finished his Master degree in criminal law, the second son has finished his Bachelor degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Sciences at the Lampang Campus of Thammasat University, and the youngest son is in high school. He possibly will study accounting after high school.
Thank you very much, Ajarn Narong, for this interview!
The interview was conducted by Dr. Duc Quang Ly, Project Manager at CPG.