International Conference “Shifting to a New Constitutionalism? Changing Political Orders in Asia”

26-27 November 2018, Holiday Inn Sukhumvit Hotel Bangkok

Jointly organized by Asian Governance Foundation (AGF) and Hanns Seidel Foundation


Monday, 26 November 2018

Welcoming words and introduction to the topic of the conference: 

Henning Glaser, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Asian Governance Foundation (AGF), and Director, German-Southeast Asian Center of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance (CPG), Faculty of Law, Thammasat University

Karl-Peter Schönfisch, Director, Laos/Thailand Office, Hanns Seidel Foundation

Southeast Asian Scenarios – Cambodia & Indonesia

“The Past and Present Situation of Cambodian Constitutional Politics: After the 29 July Legislative Elections” Son Soubert, High Privy Councillor to His Majesty the King of Cambodia

“The Rise of Religiosity and Its Implications on Democracy and Plural Society of Indonesia” Najib Burhani, Research Center for Society and Culture, Indonesian Institute of Sciences


Moderation: Duc Quang Ly, CPG

Southeast Asian Scenarios (cont.) – Vietnam

“Current Challenges Toward a Constitutional State in Vietnam” Pham Duy Nghia, Fullbright University Vietnam

“The Politics of the Vietnamese Economic Miracle: Reflections” Adam Fforde, Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University


Moderation: Duc Quang Ly, CPG

Lunch break

Southeast Asian Scenarios (cont.) –The Philippines & Malaysia

“Rule By Law Under Dutertismo: How Penal Populism is Shaping Philippine Political Order” Richard Heydarian, Author and Columnist (via skype)

“The New Constitutional Reality in Malaysia in the Post 14th General Election Era” Azmil Tayeb, School of Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Moderation: Lasse Schuldt, CPG

South Asian Scenarios – Bangladesh & Nepal

“Political Parties & Democratic Futures: Challenges for Bangladesh” Imtiaz Ahmed, Center for Alternatives, University of Dhaka

“Nepal’s Experience in Federalization under the new Constitution” Bipin Adhikari, Kathmandu University School of Law


Moderation: Lasse Schuldt, CPG

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

South Asian Scenarios (cont.) – Sri Lanka

“Can Sri Lanka Return to Constitutional Democracy?” Mario Gomez, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka      

 “Sri Lanka’s Constitutional Crisis” Marwaan Macan-Markar, Journalist 

Moderation: Thitirat Thipsamritkul, Faculty of Law, Thammasat University


South Asian Scenarios (cont.) – Pakistan & India

“Shifting to a New Constitutionalism – Pakistan: Constitutional Theory and Political Realities” Hasan Askari Rizvi, Political Science Department, Punjab University

“Two Steps Forward one Step Back: The Non-Linear Expansion of Judicial Power in Pakistan” Moeen Cheema, College of Law, The Australian National University

“A New Constitutionalism in India? Two Recent Indian Supreme Court Judgments and Their Implications”


Moderation: Georg Schlüter, Legal Consultant Thailand/Germany

Lunch break

East Asian Scenarios – China & Taiwan

“Xi Jinping’s New Constitutional Authoritarianism” Ryan Manuel, Asia Global Institute, The University of Hong Kong

“Taiwan’s Changing Political Order Since 2016: The Return to Authoritarianism and its Implications for Constitutional Law” Anton Ming-zhi Gao, Institute of Law for Science & Technology, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan


Moderation:  Akawat Laowonsiri, Faculty of Law, Thammasat University

Conference closing remarks


On 26 and 27 November 2018, CPG in cooperation with the Asian Governance Foundation (AGF) and the Hanns Seidel Foundation hosted the international conference “Shifting to a New Constitutionalism? Changing Political Orders in Asia” at Holiday Inn Sukhumvit Hotel Bangkok.

The conference addressed the recent changes of political systems in countries across Asia in the course of a process in which the existing constitution and the normative frame of the political order is superseded by the factual political reality. 14 experts from 13 countries, gathered at this event, analyzed the causes and consequences of the drifting apart of constitutional norm and political reality and the ensuing dynamics of the reshaping of the political system in eleven Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Vietnam.

In his opening remarks CPG Founding Director and AGF Executive Director Henning Glaser presented the conference’s guiding questions highlighting in particular two aspects in dealing with constitutionalism in Asia. The first is the need for intensified reflections among scholars on an approach in comparative research on constitutionalism which avoids viewing constitutionalism in Asian countries as mere ephemeral reflections of a Western type of constitutionalism and appreciates Asian constitutionalisms in their own particularity. The second aspect is the increasing connection between domestic constitutional politics and geopolitical exposure in the respective Asian countries, vividly exemplified in the Maldives where constitutional politics is locked in a heated battle over the question either to lean towards the USA or China.

Following the opening remarks, the presentations on developments in the respective countries began with “Southeast Asian Scenarios” covering Cambodia and Indonesia in the first panel. H.E. Son Soubert, High Privy Councillor to His Majesty the King of Cambodia and a member of AGF’s advisory board, presented on the latest developments in constitutional politics in Cambodian in the wake of the legislative elections of July concluding that they have led to a return to a totalitarian regime under the control of the Cambodian People’s Party. Najib Burhani from Research Center for Society and Culture of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences followed with a presentation on the dynamics of the rise of religiosity and its connection with the rise of political exclusivism in the world’s largest Muslim country.

After Cambodia and Indonesia, Vietnam was the subject of two talks by Pham Duy Nghia from the Fullbright University Vietnam and Adam Fforde from the Institute of Strategic Economic Studies of Victoria University, Australia, in the second panel. While Pham described the economic, political and social pressures on the administrative bureaucracy toward a constitutional state in Vietnam, Fforde presented on the government’s policy and development strategy of servicisation, modernisation and industrialization in historical perspective.

Concluding the “Southeast Asian Scenarios” widely read Philippine author and columnist Richard Heydarian analyzed how weakness of and under-investment in judicial institutions and the penitentiary system, rather than weakness of democratic institutions, in the Philippines are responsible for President Duterte’s ‘penal populism’. Heydarian was followed by Azmil Tayeb from the School of Sciences of Universiti Sains Malaysia who critically assessed the chances for constitutional and political reform to overcome the old Malay-Islamic-centric status quo in Malaysia after the victory of the Coalition of Hope in the recent general elections.

Turning to “South Asian Scenearios”, Imtiaz Ahmed from the Center for Alternatives at the University of Dhaka presented on the struggle of the political parties in Bangladesh to play their role in organizing and reproducing democracy amid polarization and violence, while Bipin Adhikari, Dean of the Kathmandu University School of Law, gave an account on the challenges of implementing federalism in Nepal under the country’s new constitution of 2015.

After Bangladesh and Nepal, two papers by Mario Gomez from the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka and award-winning journalist Marwaan Macan-Markar dealt with the constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka critically examining the question if the country’s institutions are resilient enough to make possible a return to constitutional democracy in the near future.

They were followed by two presentations on Pakistan. While Hasan Askari Rizvi, Prof. em. from Political Science Department of Punjab University discussed the tensions between the factual political realities and the constitutional norm, Moeen Cheema from the College of Law of the Australian National University presented on the progressive, though non-linear, expansion of judicial power in Pakistan arguing that despite some notable and highly contentious moments of judicial interference in mega politics, the bedrock of judicial review has remained in administrative law, i.e., the judicial review of executive action.

The conference was concluded by a panel on “East Asian Scenarios” with presentations on China by Ryan Manuel from Asia Global Institute of the University of Hong Kong and on Taiwan by Anton Ming-zhi Gao from the Institute of Law for Science & Technology, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. While Manuel described how in China’s political system meta-constitutional rules can create constitutional binds on the ruler’s power to create a system of constitutional authoritarianism under President Xi Jinping, Gao critically assessed developments towards a return of authoritarianism on the island under the rule of the Democratic Progressive Party.

Among the moderators of the conference were Duc Quang Ly and Lasse Schuldt, both CPG, attorney of law Georg Schlüter as well as Akawat Laowonsiri, lecturer at the Faculty of Law of Thammasat University.