Exchanging knowledge on Singapore’s and Thailand’s legal systems at Centre for Asian Legal Studies peer learning initiative

What are the similarities and differences between Singapore’s and Thailand’s legal systems? More than 50 budding lawyers from Singapore and Thailand sought to find out at a workshop series titled “An Introduction to the Basics of Singapore Company Law” in March and April this year.

Co-organised by the NUS Law’s Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) and Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law (TU Law), the event was the second iteration of the CALS–TU Law Peer Learning Initiative (CATPLI). At the beginning stage of conceptualisation, the initiative brought together 10 NUS Law and 17 Thai law students over the course of eight months to share knowledge, analyse and discuss the differences between the legal systems of both countries in the context of company law. This collaboration later culminated in the virtual workshop series where the NUS Law students shared their knowledge with the wider Thai law student community.

A student-led project established in January 2022, CATPLI’s primary aim is to promote knowledge exchange and academic collaboration between the law students of both universities. Given the differences between Singapore and Thailand’s legal systems − Singapore follows a common law system while Thailand has a predominantly civil law legal system − there is much to learn and explore in terms of the similarities and differences between the laws of both jurisdictions. This contrast also offers a comparative and fruitful learning experience for law students of both universities.

The workshop series comprised seven virtual sessions that introduced Thai law students to some basic principles of company law in Singapore. These included concepts such as fiduciary duties, rules of corporate attribution and shareholder enforcement actions. Such actions range from the remedies of a just and equitable winding-up, to a statutory derivative action – a special type of court action that enables a shareholder to pursue a wrongdoer in a company.

Preparations for the workshop series started back in August 2022 and involved three key aspects. First, NUS Law students participating in CATPLI prepared a set of memoranda summarising the legal position for each topic covered. The TU Law students then added the concurrent Thai legal position for each topic, following which an online lecture series was delivered on both Singapore’s and Thailand’s positions on the topics. Throughout this process, students from both universities had ample opportunities to communicate with each other and learn more about the similarities – and differences – of the company laws in Singapore and Thailand.

This year, a total of 54 participants from TU Law as well as three other Thai universities – Chulalongkorn University, Burapha University and the University of Phayao – successfully completed the workshop series and received a certificate of participation. This was a significant increase from 30 participants in 2022. The NUS Law student team led the initiative from its conceptualisation to curriculum design, publicity, logistics and administration with academic guidance from NUS Law faculty members.

Kevin Tang, CATPLI Project Director and Year 4 NUS Law undergraduate, shared that “one of the most rewarding aspects of this workshop was witnessing the thirst for knowledge and the drive to learn among the Thai students.”

Similarly, Russell Whang, CATPLI Project Director and Year 4 NUS Law student, shared that his “experience working with students from both institutions – and the newer members, in particular” – gave him every confidence that CATPLI is a truly special project and that “it will only continue to grow from here.”

Thai CATPLI counterpart and TU Law Coordinator, Ms Tanyapat Chaiseri, shared that “writing a memorandum collaboratively with both Thai and Singaporean law students allowed me to not only understand company law in a holistic and comparative way, but also to grasp the significance of broadening one’s perspective of laws.”

She added, “Understanding how different jurisdictions formulate their legal doctrines to deal with similar issues has allowed me to understand Thai law even more deeply and how it is positioned against the myriad of different legal systems around the world.”

Participant and Thai law student, Ms Chayapa Preechayanpanich, found her curiosity piqued from the learning experience. “The course not only gave me fundamental ideas about Singapore company law, but also drew a comparison of the similarities and differences between Thai law and Singapore law. Surprisingly, certain topics in Singapore law do not exist in the Thai Civil and Commercial Code which were so interesting that I had to explore more,” she said.

CALS Director Associate Professor Jaclyn Neo applauded the students for their initiative and dedication to this project and noted the need for interest in law in Asia to be cultivated early in law students. TU Law Vice-Dean, Assistant Professor Amnart Tangkiriphimarn echoed similar sentiments in his opening remarks and expressed his desire for there to be “more collaborations in future” as he “cherishes these efforts organised by students of both universities.”

At the workshop’s closing, CALS Deputy Director Assoc Prof Christian Hofmann, affirmed CALS’ commitment to draw attention to law in Asia and to support such student-led initiatives. CATPLI is part of CALS’ long-term efforts to develop opportunities for the exchange of knowledge between students from NUS Law and its partner institutions in ASEAN. It comes on the back of the successful inaugural workshop held in the same period last year, which focused on introducing participants to the basics of Singapore contract law.

CATPLI is now in the midst of developing a reciprocal workshop where TU Law students would be given an opportunity to share various aspects of the Thai legal system and Thai contract law with NUS Law students. This will be hosted as part of the NUS Law students’ preparations for the third annual workshop next year, which is currently slated to cover Singapore contract law.

By the Centre for Asian Studies at NUS Law