Dr Andrea Haefner1
1Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Australia
The tendency in Southeast Asia is to use legislation not only as a way to showcase steps towards increased rule of law but also as a political tool to control and influence political opponents and government critics. This article focuses on changes to civil society legislation in Lao PDR, especially the 2010 Decree on International Non-Governmental Organizations and 2017 Decree on Associations in Lao PDR. This research uses a qualitative research design that combines cross-regional trends and draws on extensive interviews and legislative review in Lao PDR. I argue that whereas legislative changes across the region are used to increase control and intimidation, the use and enforcement of the law by governments vary significantly as are the responses and strategies by civil society actors. Whereas some countries use defamation chargers as a means to suppress government critics and intimidate the political opposition, in Lao PDR the legislation allows for red tape and approval delays that reduce international influence. Key ‘work around’ strategies include the creation of social enterprises and vocational training centres, building relationships and focusing on wording.
Dr Andrea Haefner is a Lecturer at the Griffith Asia Institute and has over 10 years of work experience across government, academia and international organisations focusing on transboundary river basins and water governance. Most recently focusing on Southeast Asia, where she spent four years working and living in Laos.