Rule of Law, according to the World Bank Governance Indicators, reflects perceptions of the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.

The Asean countries generally have scores on the lower end, with only 3 countries scoring positively over a span of 3 years from 2010 to 2012. A study done by The World Justice Project (WJP) Report has found that the Asean countries have a high level of safety from crime compared to other regions, but with significant variations internally across each individual country.

Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia are the top three countries scoring the highest in the table, at 1.77, 0.81 and 0.51 respectively.

The factors contributing to Singapore’s high score would be its exceptional rankings in the areas of absence of corruption where she is ranked 5th in the world, order and security – through the effective implementation of the Internal Security Act for preventive detention and suppression of organised violence, and also its efficient judicial system. The same trend for the key factors is also noted for Brunei and Malaysia, as these two countries are said to rank relatively lower in corruption by the Business Anti-Corruption Portal, with the introduction of the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 and the Corporate Integrity Pledge 2011.

The three countries at the bottom of the list namely, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Myanmar recorded -0.83, -0.97 and -1.35 respectively.

Generally scoring poorly across a range of factors, the key categories that need to be looked into are the lack of effective regulatory enforcement, civil justice and the protection of fundamental rights. Myanmar’s human rights issues have long been in the spotlight especially with the escalating situation in the Rakhine state, coupled with a judicial system lacking in efficiency and proper processes for punishment of crimes. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has also been criticized for its inefficient court proceedings, with citizens questioning if full justice will be served.

In a nutshell, wealthier Asean countries are observed to achieve low corruption levels, effective regulatory enforcement, fair judicial systems and open governments, which contrasts that of the less wealthy countries in the region. Meanwhile, the challenges faced by these Asean countries with categories that require improvements include the protection of fundamental rights, and the availability of civil justice, among others. These factors are often interrelated, where the weakness of one category would lead to the weakening of another. More information can be provided from the World Bank Governance Indicators (WGI) here.

Read more: The Rule of Law Across Asean