Sixteen public interest lawyers and legal activists from around Southeast Asia have gathered in Chiang Mai for ERI’s two-week Mekong Legal Advocacy Institute (MLAI). Foremost on the agenda is an intensive training on human rights, environmental law and effective public interest practice by legal experts. Just as vibrant are the ongoing discussions about practice, strategy and the shared commitment to use the law to protect people and the environment.

Concluding next week, the training will serve as a vehicle not only for enriching the legal knowledge of lawyers from the Mekong, but also for exchanging ideas on regional approaches to addressing local issues.

Participants attending the Mekong Legal Advocacy InstituteParticipants attending the Mekong Legal Advocacy Institute

This year’s roster of participants includes four lawyers from inside Burma who work on land and labor cases and raise awareness on using the law to protect rights and resources. Other participants include a farmer activist from China who uses legal strategies to protect the forests and waters of Yunnan Province, litigators who represent communities affected by development projects, advocates engaging with government agencies to strengthen environmental policies, and students actively involved in the legal aid clinics of their law schools.

Serving as mentors are members of the Mekong Legal Network (MLN), whose experiences in public interest practice and community partnerships serve to inspire the trainees to revolutionize their own practice. Experts from Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, the USA and Vietnam are also present to arm the participants with vital knowledge on international human rights law, environmental law, sustainable development, the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), international financial institutions and national human rights institutions. Members of the ERI staff are also in full force to share their expertise, experiences and research outputs, as well as to learn.