After being promoted to a regional office in 2013, RLS SEA is currently working in four countries within the region and is able to successively broaden its networks.
In Cambodia, RLS SEA’s initial projects have contributed to a better understanding of legal procedures and the social service provision for Cambodian citizens and for local authorities. Together with the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM), a local NGO, RLS is working on a project addressing the labor conditions and participation in decision-making processes of Cambodia’s garment workers. Since the garment industry is Cambodia’s biggest formal sector with about 400.000 workers directly connected and a further 500.000 employees in the supporting industry – most of them women – it is a project working towards the very needs of the Cambodian people.
In Laos, RLS SEA has started a partnership with the Office of the National Assembly of Lao (ONAL). By RLS’ support, this office coordinates capacity building and information activities for the Ethnic Committee and the Law Committee and for all Members of Parliament. ONAL thereby supports Lao NA members in their parliamentary tasks to oversight policies and to represent their constituents more effectively. RLS SEA’s engagement in Laos will grow steadily by broadening our network within the National Assembly and extend our reach to other areas in the future.
RLS SEA has also been successful in becoming involved in Myanmar. Our work in Myanmar is to exchange information during the integration of the once isolated country back into the international community. Therefore, we are organizing information exchanges for parliamentarians within our network along with international workshops. Young people constitute another focus group, as they are the future of Myanmar’s society. RLS SEA is supporting the formation of a youth network within the Southeast Asian region to bring together young and aspiring leaders.
Myanmar’s current development is dominated by neo-liberal discourses. Due to its history and its amount of natural resources it has become an attractive place for foreign investment. RLS SEA is determined to raise awareness that economic development has to go hand-in-hand with social justice and has to benefit the whole nation. A further integration of Myanmar into the world economy can only be successful if the Burmese government is able to protect its citizen’s by establishing imperative binding regulations.
In the next few years we will not only focus on strengthening its already existing networks, but also on extending them. Moreover, RLS SEA will also work on establishing structures inside the project countries, to inform about latest developments and to adjust its operational methods to accommodate local customs. Eventually, this will improve the way needs and demands are addressed, which hopefully will help projects run more efficiently. RLS Southeast Asia’s role in the region will be defined through its continuous commitment to social justice, socio-ecological transformation and international dialogue on its current path.