Laos, NGOs in Laos, Non-Profit Asia, Cuso, Civil Society, Southeast Asia
This paper looks at the case study of Huam Jai Asasamak, a Non-Profit Association operating in Laos in order to understand various challenges faced by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the socialist regime of the Laos. It uses participant observation as a research method based on time spent living in Laos as well as other qualitative research methods including document analysis, observation, and interviews. The paper gives a contextual overview of Laos and shows that civil society is a new phenomenon in Laos linked to social and political consequences of opening up of the Laos economy in 1980s. Furthermore, the two types of challenges are discussed: Inter-NGO (issues related to organizational challenges), and Intra-NGO (those that an organization faces nationally or internationally). After the adoption of the New Economic Mechanism in 1986, more iNGOs gradually gained permission to operate in Laos. However, the legal framework for local organizations to operate did not come into effect until 2009. Therefore, the challenges faced by local CSOs present a case study of state-led civil society in Laos characterized by the state’s direct control and supervision of the sector. This has ultimately created a space for civil society in Laos that is limited in capacity and operating in a somewhat fearful environment. However, based on the analysis of civil society in Laos, the paper states that a compromise between the state and CSOs is the chief determinant characteristic of civil society organizations in Laos. The CSOs are not looking to change the regime but rather to defend their right to exist. In doing so, they comply with state's regulations. Consequently, the civil society steers away from a liberal perspective of civil society, and creates its own realm, thereby defining civil society from its own [Laotian] perspective.
Master of Arts