The Southeast Asia Law & Policy Forum includes undergraduate and graduate students, PhD students, academics and alumni. Here is an introduction to their expertise.


Melissa Crouch

Melissa Crouch is Professor at the Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW.  She served as Associate Dean (Research) from 2019-2021. Her research contributes to the fields of law and society;  comparative constitutional studies, and law and religion with a focus on Asia. Melissa is currently working on a project on Constitutional Change in Authoritarian Regimes: The Case of Myanmar, which is funded by the Australian Research Council. Melissa has published in a range of peer-reviewed journals including the Law & Society Review, International Journal of Constitutional Law and the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies.  She is the editor of several volumes, including Women and the Judiciary in the Asia-Pacific(CUP 2021). . Melissa’s recent book is  The Constitution of Myanmar: A Contextual Analysis(2019)  and was shortlisted for the Australian Legal Research Awards book prize. Melissa is the Vice-President of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA), the peak academic body for Asian studies in Australia.

Christoph Sperfeldt

Christoph Sperfeldt is a Research Associate working on the ARC-funded project ‘Constitutional Change in Authoritarian Regimes: The Case of Myanmar’. He is also a Fellow at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, an Associate of the Asia Law Centre at Melbourne Law School, and Adjunct Professor at the Center for the Study of Humanitarian Law at the Royal University of Law and Economics, Cambodia. Before joining UNSW, Christoph was Senior Research Fellow at the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness at Melbourne Law School, where he led the Centre’s Asia engagement and was Academic Convenor of the Statelessness Hallmark Research Initiative. He remains affiliated with the Centre as an Honorary Fellow. Christoph pursues socio-legal research in areas of human rights and justice, including statelessness and legal identity, international and regional human rights protection, and transitional and international criminal justice. He has studied these issues particularly in a context of peacebuilding and development cooperation, with a geographical focus on Southeast Asia. Christoph holds a PhD from the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University. He brings to his role at UNSW more than a decade of professional experience in working on human rights, statelessness and transitional justice, predominantly in Southeast Asia. He was Deputy Director at the Asian International Justice Initiative, a joint program of the East-West Center and the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, where he supported human rights and rule of law capacity development in ASEAN. Prior to this, he was Senior Advisor with the German development agency (GIZ) in Cambodia.

Salai Samuel Hmung

Salai Samuel Hmung (Samuel) is a Research Associate working on the ARC-funded project ‘Constitutional Change in Authoritarian Regimes: The Case of Myanmar’. He is the recipient of an Australian Awards scholarship and was awarded his Master of Political Science (Advanced) from the Australian National University. His master thesis applied an original power-sharing framework to explore and compare the preferences of Myanmar’s elite political actors for power-sharing through their public statements from 2015-2020 by using a dictionary-based content analysis method. His broader research interests include power-sharing institutions, ethnic politics, and civil conflict. He has ten years’ professional experience in the field of peacebuilding, electoral politics, and youth activism in Myanmar. He has worked as a research officer for the Southeast Asia Rules-Based Order (SEARBO) project at the ANU’s Coral Bell School and as a research and communications officer at the ANU’s Myanmar Research Centre. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations from the Yangon University and a Bachelor of Engineering (Information Technology) from the Yangon Technological University.


Chhunvoleak (‘Voleak’) is a current PhD student at the University of New South Wales. Her research is titled “Case Management and Access to Justice for Commercial Litigation in Cambodia”. Voleak has extensive experience in the Cambodian judicial system. From 2009 to 2014, Voleak worked at the Kandal Provincial Court, before being promoted to the Appellate Court in 2014. The Appellate Court is responsible for all cases appealed from the municipal and provincial courts, and the military court. In her court work, Voleak engaged in handling, processing, judicial decision making, enforcing judgments in a range of court cases, including civil and criminal cases. Her work also involved closely monitoring court administration, as well as participation in the judicial reform project. She commenced her PhD in 2019.

Natasha Yacoub

Natasha Yacoub is a Doctoral candidate at the University of New South Wales and affiliate of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law. Her thesis is titled: ‘Rethinking the history of refugee protection in Southeast Asia: Law, policy and practice’. Ms Yacoub is presently on leave from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where she has been posted since 2001 in conflict and non-conflict settings in Egypt, Sudan, Ireland, United Nations Headquarters New York, Myanmar, Australia and the Pacific Island States. She also served as a decision-maker on the Refugee Review Tribunal and Migration Review Tribunal in Australia from 2012 to 2014. Her research interests are ‘regional refugee protection’, refugee status determination, statelessness, protection of civilians and the protection of refugee women and girls.

MD. A Sayeed

MD. A Sayeed is a PhD Candidate at the School of Humanities and Languages of the University of New South Wales. His research explores the possibilities of an alternative theory of constitutionalism that dispenses with the category of sovereignty. This project lies in the intersection of constitutional law and critical theory and is as such, being jointly supervised in Philosophy and Law. He completed his LLB (Hon’s) and LLM degrees from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Before starting his PhD, he served as a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. His research interests include constitutional theory, critical legal theory, political thought of Gandhi and Giorgio Agamben, post-structuralism and law and social theory. Currently, Sayeed is also a research assistant to Dr. Melissa Crouch on various legal and constitutional issues of Bangladesh.

Ayesha Wijayalath

Ayesha Wijayalath is a PhD Scientia candidate at UNSW Law working on a project on ‘A Liberal Response to Populist Constitutionalism’. Her research focuses on constraining abusive constitutional change in Sri Lanka and explores the unconstitutional constitutional amendment doctrine as a potential solution. Prior to joining UNSW, Ayesha worked as a Research Associate in the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS) and was an Associate Editor of the Asian Journal of Comparative Law. Ayesha graduated from NUS in 2017 with an LLM specialising in International and Comparative Law. She is also an Attorney-at-Law in Sri Lanka. She holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and a BA in French from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. Ayesha takes a keen interest in comparative constitutional law, democracy and the rule of law, international humanitarian law and transitional justice.

Current Research Assistants

Natasha Naidu

Natasha Naidu is a BA (Distinction) / LLB (Hons I) graduate from UNSW and an LLM candidate at the University of Cambridge. Her research interest focuses on the rule of law in South and Southeast Asia. She is a research assistant to Professor Melissa Crouch. Natasha has previously worked as an associate at the Supreme Court of New South Wales, as a legal consultant at a Cambodian anti-human trafficking NGO and at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia. Natasha has published in the UNSW Law Journal, the Journal of International Criminal Justice, and New Mandala. She has served as editor for the UNSW Law Journal and the Cambridge Journal of International Law.

Former Research Assistants

Sai Myint Aung

Sai Myint Aung completed his JD degree at UNSW Law in 2019. Now a PhD candidate, his thesis is a socio-legal study of the banking sector in Myanmar. He is a research assistant for Associate Professor Melissa Crouch. He has worked as a paralegal in Financial Restructuring and Insolvency Team at Norton Rose Fulbright, Sydney Office. Prior to commencing his law degree, Sai was an operations manager at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Myanmar Branch, overseeing payment and cash operations as well as markets operations. Previously, he was a project manager in the project to establish the Myanmar Branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC). He was born and brought up in Taunggyi in eastern Myanmar and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Master of Professional Accounting from UNSW. His research interests include law and development, law and society, and comparative constitutional law. In2019 he was awarded the  Dean’s List of Excellence in Academic Performance for three subjects: Land Law; Legal Experimentalism and World Trade Law, and was shortlisted for the Valedictorian Award.

David Immanuel Sulisto

David Immanuel Sulisto is a third-year Law and Commerce student at UNSW. He is currently a research assistant to Associate Professor Melissa Crouch on projects focusing on Indonesian law and politics. He is also the Economics Speaker’s Director for the UNSW ASEAN Conference. David is interested in making a positive impact in Australia and Southeast Asian countries, specifically Indonesia. 

Madelene Wonders

Madelene Wonders obtained her JD degree from UNSW and a Master of Human Rights and a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy) from the University of Sydney. From 2018-2019, she was a research assistant on Melissa Crouch’s ARC Discovery Project on Constitutional Change in Authoritarian Regimes. Her other research interests include law and social theory, and human rights issues such as modern slavery and economic and social rights. In 2018, Madelene represented UNSW at the International Criminal Court Moot Competition addressing the issue of human trafficking within corporate supply chains, and prior to her legal studies she was a project officer for the Aurora Education Foundation, an NFP focused on supporting Indigenous education. In 2019-20, Madelene is the Human Rights Fellow at Legal Aid NSW where she is working with the Legal Aid Human Rights Committee.

Katherine Chork

Katherine Chork is a BA/LLB (Hons I) graduate of UNSW. She works as a Research Assistant to Associate Professor Melissa Crouch at UNSW Law. She was recognised by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Deans List in 2014, 2015 and 2017 for academic excellence and on the Faculty of Law Dean’s List in 2017 and 2019, for achieving first place in Law and Social Theory and Public Interest Litigation: Origins and Strategies. In 2016, she contributed to a submission by the UNSW Law Society for the Senate inquiry into the conditions and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees at the regional processing centres in the Republic of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. She was also a volunteer with the Kingsford Legal Centre while completing her practical legal training.

Ashraful Azad

Ashraful Azad is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales. He completed BSS and MSS in International Relations from the University of Chittagong and MPhil in International Law from Monash University. He is also an assistant professor in the Department of International Relations, University of Chittagong (currently on study leave to pursue PhD). His experience also includes working as a UNHCR protection staff in 2011-12 and as a research consultant with Equal Rights Trust, UK in 2015 where he wrote a report on the legal status of Rohingya in Bangladesh. Ashraful’s main research interests are Rohingya refugees, irregular migration, and labour migration in Bangladesh. His PhD research focuses on the migration of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Malaysia and the response of states towards such migration. This research analyses the irregular migration of stateless people and connects the mobility between South Asia and Southeast Asia. Ashraful has published several peer-reviewed papers including in the Journal of Human Trafficking, Griffith Journal of Law and Human Dignity and Chittagong University Journal of Social Sciences. He has also published short pieces in the Conversation and OpenDemocracy and commented in various media including Guardian (UK), Equal Times (Brussels), the Independent and Bangladesh Post (Bangladesh), ABC radio and TV (Australia), TRT World (Turkey), and Channel NewsAsia (Singapore). He also works as a Country of Origin Information expert for Bangladesh enlisted with the Rights in Exile Programme (IRRI) and has provided expert reports in several asylum cases.

Milda Istiqomah

Milda Istiqomah is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Brawijaya University, Indonesia and a PhD Candidate at the Law Faculty, University of New South Wales, Australia. She completed her PhD thesis in 2020 on ‘Factors Contributing to Terrorism Sentencing Decisions in Indonesia.’ Milda has a Masters of Transnational Crime Prevention from the University of Wollongong, Australia. Milda teaches criminal law and criminology. She also researches on terrorism, deradicalisation programs, countering violent extremism as well as sentencing patterns and trends in terrorism offences, with a specialisation in Indonesia. Milda has been awarded a Masters’ scholarship from the Ministry of Higher Degree and Research of Indonesia, as well as PhD scholarship from the Ministry of Finance of Indonesia. Milda was the Chief Investigator on a Ministry of Higher Degree and Research Grant on ‘Deradicalisation Program in Indonesian Prisons’ (2012 – 2015). Milda is the deputy director of the Centre for Transnational Crime and Terrorism (Frontier), Brawijaya University.

Lena Hanifah

Lena Hanifah completed her PhD at UNSW Law on ‘Islamic inheritance law in Indonesia: The experience of women’ in 2020. She is an academic from the Lambung Mangkurat University, Banjarmasin, Kalimantan. She was awarded her LLM from the National University of Malaysia. Lena is an expert in Islamic inheritance law, gender and family law, Islamic law and legal pluralism. She has previously worked as a facilitator for the Women and Children’s Protection and Empowerment Board of the South Kalimantan Provincial Government in Banjarmasin. In this role she facilitated the training of provincial government employees on gender issues and other legal matters.

Indri Saptraningrun

Indri Saptraningrun is a legal researcher, human rights advocate and PhD candidate at the Law Faculty of the University of New South Wales, Australia. She completed her thesis in 2020 on ‘From Government to Governance: The Politics of Indonesia’s Digital Content Policies post- 2008.’ Indri is the former Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (known as ELSAM), a prominent civil society organization based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is a recipient of the prestigious Australian Awards Scholarship and The British Chevening Award. She has been the author of the Indonesia chapter of the ‘Freedom on the Net Report’, Freedom House (2016–present). She has contributed to numerous research reports, including the Report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia (2008); A Gender Responsive Parliament: A Handbook on Gender Mainstreaming in the Legislature (UNDP Indonesia, 2008), as well as numerous other policy papers.

Bhatara Ibnu Reza

Bhatara Ibnu Reza completed his PhD at UNSW Law on ‘The development of state-sponsored militia: the implementation of the total people’s defence and security system in Indonesia’. He was formerly a senior researcher at Imparsial, a prominent legal NGO in Jakarta, Indonesia. He comments frequently in the media on issues of law and human rights in Indonesia. He is an academic at a university based in Jakarta. In 2019, he was appointed by the President of Indonesia as a Commissioner of the Attorney General’s Commission, an independent accountability agency in Indonesia.

Dr Melissa Jardine

Dr Melissa Jardine was awarded her PhD at UNSW Law in 2019. She is on the Board of Directors for the Global Law Enforcement & Public Health Association and Gender Advisor & Communications Manager for the Centre for Law Enforcement & Public Health. Melissa was a Victoria Police officer for 10 years (2001-2011) working at the frontline and in criminal investigations and is a current member of the Strategic Planning Committee for the International Association of Women Police (IAWP). In Victoria Police, she worked in general duties, criminal investigations, the Asian Squad (disbanded), drug taskforces and trained as an undercover operative. In 2005, she was the recipient of a scholarship to study Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, from the Victorian Multicultural Commission while working for Victoria Police.  Her PhD was on policing in Vietnam. In 2018-2019, Melissa is a consultant to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and UN Women in relation to gender, policing, border control and transnational crimes in ASEAN. Melissa has written and delivered a range of international police training packages regarding HIV prevention, harm reduction approaches to drug use and sex work, and police-public health leadership.  In 2017, Melissa was selected as an Asia 21 Young Leader by the Asia Society.

Fritz Edward Siregar

Fritz Edward Siregar is an alumni of UNSW Law and in June 2017 was a visiting fellow at UNSW Law. In 2017, he was appointed by the President of Indonesia to the Indonesian Elections Supervisory Board (2017–2022), an independent body responsible for supervising the election process, and disputes regarding the election process and administrative violations. Fritz completed his LL.B. from the Faculty of Law, the University of Indonesia. He holds a LL.M degree from the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and the University of New South Wales. In 2016, he completed his SJD at UNSW on judicial behaviour and judicialization of Indonesia Constitutional Court, receiving the Australian Leadership Award. From 2004–2009, Fritz was part of the founding generation of staff on the Indonesia Constitutional Court as a Justice Assistant to Justice Maruarar Siahaan. In 2006, he was selected as the first foreigner to work as an intern as Judicial Associate at the High Court of Australia. He also previously worked at the International Monetary Fund’s project on legal reform in Indonesia. Fritz has been a lecturer at several institutions, including the University of Indonesia, Indonesia Jentera School of Law. Fritz currently serves as Commissioner of Indonesia’s Election Supervisory Body (Bawaslu).

Phyo Mouk

Phyo Mouk is an alumni of the University of New South Wales (2018), where he obtained a Masters of Laws in Dispute Resolution, specialising in corporate and commercial law. Since returning to Myanmar, Phyo worked as a Judicial Officer in the Supreme Court Union of Myanmar in the Law and Procedure Department. He was involved as a member of the working group for the implementation and introduction of the Court-Led Mediation Program. He was also involved in seminars on the reform of arbitration, and in the drafting of the new intellectual property law. In addition to his work as a judicial officer, Phyo is involved in promoting public awareness of mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism in Myanmar, such as the creation of promotional media for Court-led mediation programs. In 2020, Phyo will commence his PhD in Japan.

Yin Myo Su Hlaing

Yin Myo Su Hlaing is an Assistant Director from the Union Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) in Myanmar. She graduated from Monywa University with LLB in 2004. After that, she obtained a LL.M from Yangon University in 2007 with a specialization in International Law. After that, she obtained a LL.M from Yangon University in 2007 with a specialization in International Law. In 2017, she also obtained a Master of Laws from UNSW with a specialization in Human Rights and Social Justice. She had the professional prosecutorial experiences to the Courtrooms because she served in Yangon Western District Law Office as a Deputy Staff Officer and Mayangon Township Law Office in Yangon as a Deputy Township Law Officer from 2009 – 2012. In 2013, she had been promoted to Staff Officer in the International law and ASEAN Legal Affairs Division at the UAGO in Nay Pyi Taw. In 2016, she was promoted to Assistant Director in the above Division. In addition, she obtained a certificate of Advocate from the Supreme Court of Union in 2019. She is a member of the working group to implement the functions of Union Coordination Body (UCB) for Rule of Law Centre and Justice Sector Affairs, a member of the research team of the UAGO and a member to upgrade the English-Myanmar Law Dictionary.

Nyi Nyi Kyaw

Nyi Nyi Kyaw received his PhD from UNSW in international and political studies in 2015. He also has two master’s degrees in international political economy and human rights and democratisation (Asia Pacific). Since completing his PhD, he was awarded a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Law School, the National University of Singapore. Since 2019, he has been a visiting fellow in the Myanmar Studies Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. He specialises in issues of identity, religion, Buddhist-Muslim relations, nationalism and populism, with a focus on Myanmar. His research has been published or is forthcoming in the Review of Faith & International AffairsJournal of Immigrant & Refugee StudiesSocial Identities, and the Chinese Journal of Comparative Law. He has also contributed to several edited volumes on religion, constitutionalism, and citizenship.

  • 2019, Yance Arizona, PhD candidate of the University of Leiden, was a visiting fellow at UNSW Law.
  • 2019, Ari Wahyudi Hertanto, Nathalina Naibaho and Fully Handayani Ridwan, academics and PhD candidates from the University of Indonesia Law School, visited UNSW Law
  • 2019, University of Pancasila Law School
  • 2019, Seoul National University, Korea
  • 2019, Centre for Asian Legal Studies, Nagoya University, Japan
  • 2017-2018, Dr Fritz Siregar was a visiting fellow under the UNSW Indonesia Seed Grant
  • 2017, Constitutional Court of Thailand
  • 2016, University of Atmajaya

Student Groups

The Southeast Asia Law & Policy Forum supports the UNSW ASEAN Society and Melissa Crouch sits on the Advisory Board of the UNSW ASEAN Society