Ryal Wun

Thesis title: The Use of Force and Statehood Seeking Territories

Start year: 2014

Contact: ryal.wun-2014@brookes.ac.uk

Supervisor(s): Professor Ilona Cheyne

Research topic

My work involves two parts:

  1. Issues of statehood
    • Statehood criteria and the creation of States
    • Denial of statehood status and the emergence of Statehood Seeking Territories (SSTs)
  2. Use of Force in Self-defence
    • Prohibition of the use of force between States, applied to SSTs
    • Use of force in self-defence between States, applied to SSTs
    • Use of force in self-defence against International Terrorist Acts, applied to SSTs

Work in progress


I have examined the concept of statehood and statehood criteria through history, including the creation of States in the 20th century through decolonisation and secession.

Also emerging in the 20th century have been international entities which statehood status remain ambiguous or contested. Most research in this area involves examining criteria for statehood, and how and why legal statehood status is denied. However, research on such entities – which I term “Statehood Seeking Territories” (SSTs) – does not extend to the consequences of possessing ambiguous or contested legal statehood status, especially with regards to the use of force in self-defence, and particularly where international terrorism is involved.

Use of Force in Self-defence

Does the law on the prohibition and use of force in self-defence apply (if at all) to SSTs as they do to States? If not, what rules do apply? I have examined the historical development of – and principles behind – the prohibition and use of force in self-defence between States, and have analysed the possible application of the law on self-defence to SSTs.

The start of the 21st century has also seen the emergence of international terrorism. How the law on the use of force in self-defence – originally designed for application between States – may be applied to such terrorist acts is unclear and controversial. Even more controversial are circumstances where acts of international terrorism involve SSTs, their disputing Parent State and a third State. What is the position if a terrorist group operates from within an SST to attack a third State? Does the third State have a cause of action in self-defence against the Parent State or the SST? Conversely what is the position if a terrorist group operates from within a third State to attack an SST? Does the Parent State or SST have a right to act in self-defence?

I am currently analysing UN Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions since 1946, as well as ICJ cases, on the use of force involving international terrorist acts. This is to better understand the principles behind the evolution of international attitudes towards terrorist acts, and how the law on self-defence could be applied as global circumstances evolve.


Statehood, decolonisation, secession, statehood seeking territories, use of force in self-defence, terrorist acts, international terrorism

General research interests

Statehood, parent States and disputed territories, secession, decolonisation, statehood seeking territories, State responsibility, use of force in self-defence, self-defence against international terrorist acts, Law of the Sea, ASEAN matters, international corporate social responsibility

Academic school / department

School of Law and Social Sciences


Conference papers

  • ‘Resettling and Housing multi-Racial Communities: Challenges for the New Breed of Community Leaders in Singapore in the New Millennium’, Journal of Youth Studies 2000 (3)2
  • ‘Beyond Traditional Statehood Criteria: The Law and Contemporary Politics of State Creation’, Hague Yearbook of International Law 2013
  • ‘Rising Sea Levels and the Law of Baselines – Rippling Changes On the Horizon: Impact of Rising Sea Levels on Islands, Rocks, Low-Tide Elevations and Reefs’, Metropolitan University of Sylhet, August 2015

Teaching experience

  • 1996–2002 Senior Lecturer (National Community Leadership Institute, Singapore)

Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Associate Fellow, The Higher Education Academy

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • LLB (Hons) University of London, 1991
  • MBA (Investment and Finance) University of Hull, 1995
  • LLM (International Law) (Merit), Oxford Brookes University, 2012
  • MSt (Diplomatic Studies) (Distinction), University of Oxford, 2013
  • Teaching Certificate in Higher Education (Merit), 2015

Scholarships and prizes

  • People’s Association Scholarship 1994-1995