Interview with Dr. Munin Pongsapan
Dr. Munin Pongsapan, Director of the International LLB Program, Faculty of Law, Thammasat University
The Faculty of Law of Thammasat University, host of CPG, is the oldest law school in Thailand with a rich tradition in legal education and public service. With currently more than 4000 students it is also Thailand’s largest faculty of law. In August 2014 the International LLB Program in Business Law, a four years’ full-time program, was introduced. CPG talked to Dr. Munin Pongsapan, Director of the program, about his experience with program so far and his expectations for the future.
Dr. Munin, as Director of the International LLB Program in Business Law, are you satisfied with the development of the program so far?
I am delighted with the development of the program so far, and we are already starting to see the fruits of the efforts of all the people who have worked so hard to make this program a reality.
Although we only launched the Bachelor of Laws Program in Business Law (International Program) – which we call the Thammasat International LL.B Program – in August 2014, we are already seeing a thriving course environment, thanks to a huge collaborative effort between the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University and a number of foreign institutions. It is the first program of its kind in Thailand: the only international undergraduate program in Law in the country, teaching Thai law in English at the undergraduate level. As Director of the Program, I am delighted with the development we are already seeing, in particular in four exciting areas:
Firstly, we are witnessing a tremendous improvement in the abilities of our students to interpret Thai law in English, even during their first year. Becoming familiar with Thai law in English (while at the same time understanding the correct terminology in Thai) is very challenging. However, our students are rising to this challenge, and are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by lectures and tutorials in English (together with additional classes to ensure that they have the correct Thai terminology). They are already demonstrating incredible progress in their skills.
Secondly, I am pleased that our students are already taking advantage of all the extra-curricular activities that are open to them, as members of the student community at Thammasat University. Even though it feels, in some ways, like our students have just arrived, they have quickly become heavily involved in all kinds of activities, including various sporting events, the Asian Law Student Association (ALSA), the Pro Bono Club, and a number of international moot court competitions (the latter in particular, I feel, plays to our students’ language strengths). Our program encourages the students to engage in these activities, not just to expand their experience but also because such opportunities can help to develop skills which will be highly valued, whatever their chosen careers.
Thirdly, we are so fortunate as to have been visited by renowned guest lecturers from all over the world, who have given presentations on a wide range of topics in relation to business law, from academic institutions including the National University of Singapore, the University of Hong Kong, Sogang University, the University of Dundee, and the University of Nottingham and prominent law firms in Asia such as Rajah & Tann (Singapore office).
Finally, the program is in advanced discussions relating to exchange schemes with a large number of internationally renowned foreign academic institutions. These schemes will allow our students to spend one year of the course (in most cases probably their fourth year) overseas, reading law in, for example, the UK, the USA, or elsewhere. These schemes are a fantastic opportunity for our students. We will also be delighted to receive students from these institutions in exchange, which will be a welcome addition to the already international atmosphere of the program.
So, in summary, I am delighted by the development of the program, and I am very excited for the future, for us at the program as well as for our students.
What are your expectations for the future?
We have a huge number of very high expectations for the future, but I will do my best to keep it short:
We currently have 105 students in our inaugural year, and we are looking forward to welcoming about 120 new students in the 2015 academic year. We are already receiving a very large number of applications, which means that there is huge competition for places. However, this does mean that we are in the fortunate position of being able to select the very best applicants which creates an enthusiastic, committed and strongly academic environment in the program. I am confident that this will, if anything, increase in the future as our program becomes more widely known.
I have already mentioned how delighted we are with the progress our students are making, and I expect that this will continue: I am confident that by the time the students graduate they will be equipped with the skills they need to excel, and I am excited to see where their future will take them.
I am also excited by the opportunities we now have to develop a range of new academic materials. For some time we have been involved in Thai law publication projects, but we now have the opportunity to develop Thai law materials in English. While these will first and foremost be created to assist our students, they will also be of benefit to people all around the world who wish to become familiar with the law in Thailand. It presents another opportunity for us to raise our profile in the international community, and such opportunities are always welcome and exciting for us.
I have already mentioned the links that we have already developed with academic and other institutions overseas, with guest lectures, conferences and, of course, our very exciting exchange programs. I expect these links to continually improve and deepen, and I can see us cultivating strong and long-lasting relationships with top universities, law schools, and other institutions all over the world.
Our program is still at a very early stage, but I am excited about its development and its potential for the future. I am passionate about what we are doing and the opportunities that we are able to provide to students, and I hope that more people here in Thailand, regionally and globally get to hear about us.
Thank you very much for the interview, Dr. Munin.
The interview was conducted by Dr. Duc Quang Ly, CPG Project Manager