Day one – Second Meeting of the APCJJ Subcommittee for ASEAN

The inaugural day of the APCJJ Subcommittee for ASEAN’s Second Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, held on June 15th, was dedicated to the issue of cross-border safeguards for children in conflict with the law.

This three-day event, which is being organised by the International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO) in partnership with the Thai Ministry of Justice, was opened by the IJJO Chairman, Dr. Francisco Legaz Cervantes, and Professor Wisit Wisitsora-At, Director General at the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection (DJOP) of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Thailand. 

In his speech, Dr. Legaz emphasised the essential importance of improving juvenile justice systems and bringing related policies in line with international standards in order to create a better social future for children in the ASEAN region. The IJJO Chairman stressed the need for specific policies designed to address the unique regional and social problems that affect these children, while promoting their personal and social development within a juvenile justice system that puts the child’s well-being and reintegration first. Dr. Legaz also highlighted the issue of deprivation of liberty for children in conflict with the law, which is prevalent in a number of ASEAN States. 

This was followed by an inauguration speech by Mr. Kobkiat Kasivivat, MOJ Deputy Permanent Secretary Thailand, who pointed out the need for enhanced cooperation and joint reflection between ASEAN countries, signalling that this was a great opportunity for enhancing and promoting best practices. 

The Meeting of the APCJJ Subcommittee for ASEAN was then formally introduced with remarks by Mr. Cédric Foussard, the IJJO’s Director of International Affairs, who presented the trajectory and activities of the APCJJ, and Dr. Kattiya Ratanadilok, Head of Research and Development at the DJOP, who introduced the work on cross border safeguards for children in conflict with the law, including 14 recommended guidelines. Both encouraged the exchange by the participants, saying that the members of the APCJJ’s Subcommittee for ASEAN should build upon these guidelines based on positive ideas and good practices. 

Following these introductory remarks, the day’s keynote speech was given by Dr. Ton Liefaard, Professor at the University of Leiden. In this keynote address, he focused on children in cross-border instances, including the main problems, challenges, safeguards and priorities. Some key issues covered were children who cross borders after they have committed criminal offenses; children committing criminal offences in a foreign country, including children from ASEAN and children from other countries; and migrant children who are accused of criminal offences in cross-border situations, as well as children victims or witnesses.  

Mr. Liefaard also offered a European (EU) perspective, including framework decisions concerning cross-border cooperation and mutual recognition, the Stockholm Programme (2009), the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child (2011), and the EU Directive on Procedural Safeguards for Children. He concluded by pointing out important steps to be taken, including standard-setting at ASEAN level, exchange of practices, data collection and evaluation, and education and training. 

The day’s topic of discussion, ‘Cross-border safeguards for children in conflict with the law,’ was formally introduced by Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, representative of Thailand to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Dr. Nonthasoot focused the intervention on the ASEAN’s perspective, stressing the need to have a holistic approach when dealing with the various challenges.

The first discussion panel featured the host country, Thailand, and its approach to cross-border issues for children in conflict with the law, as well as a presentation on the results of a national workshop. The experts participating in this panel included Prof. Wisit Wisitsora-At, Director General of the DJOP, Mr. Chareon Nantara, Director of Regional Juvenile Vocational Training Center 9, and Mr. Chainarin Janiam, Director of Juvenile Observation and Protection Centre of the Chonburi Province. 

The afternoon session begun with United Nations perspectives and recommendations concerning cross-border cooperation, with presentations by Ms. Anna Giudice Saget, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer from the UNODC, Ms. Victoria Juat, Chief Child Protection from UNICEF’s Thai office, and Mr. Alistair Boulton, Assistant Regional Representative of UNHCR. The presentations were followed by an exchange with the participants. 

Following the intervention by UN representatives, a roundtable with experts on cross-border cooperation in juvenile justice was held, with interventions by Ms. Malina Enlund, Asia Director of the A21 Foundation, and Ms. Vuthaya Charoenpol, Country Program Director of Friends international in Thailand. They offered views on their professional expertise working in programs with juveniles in conflict with the law. 

The rest of the day’s events presented three ASEAN states’ perspectives on cross-border issues, including their interventions, plans, challenges and recommendations.

First of all, Cambodia was represented by Ms. Sotheavy Chan and Mr. Khemlin Ku, respectively the Secretary of State and the Deputy Director General of Cambodia’s Ministry of Justice, and Mr. Chhay Vanna, Under Secretary of State of the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Secondly, Myanmar was represented by Ms. Marlar Maw, Deputy Director, International Relations and Research Department Office of the Supreme Court of the Union.

To conclude, Viet Nam was represented by two delegates from its Ministry of Justice: An Dao, Deputy Head of Division at the Department of Criminal and Administrative Laws, and Ms Nguyen Minh Hang, Legal Specialist of International Cooperation Department.