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Analyses, Perspectives and Opinions

RLS Southeast Asia regularly publishes political analyses and working papers on current and relevant topics from the Mekong Region. Together with our partners, we shed light on different opinions and introduce perspectives on pressing social and ecological questions and challenges. The publications are categorized according to topics and countries and can be selected using the links below.

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 Social-ecological transformation

Crash Barriers for Post-COVID-19 Food and Agricultural Systems

The authors of this publication present alternatives for post-COVID-19 food and agricultural systems from a politically leftist perspective and discuss the impacts of the pandemic with a focus on small-scale food producers who feed the majority of the world’s population, and the invisibility of farmworkers that grow, pick, and pack the food sold in supermarkets and other food retail outlets.

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 Cambodia, Social-ecological transformation

Pesticide and Herbicide Use: The Impacts on Small-Scale Farmers in the Romeas Haek, Romdoul, and Svay Chrum Districts of Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia

This study analyzed three significant aspects of small-scale farmers’ use of agrochemical inputs in their rice farming and other crop production methods. It documents the pressures of the green-revolution-in- spired innovations of agricultural production methods and small-scale farmers’ shift toward agrochemical inputs. This trend was vital to increase yields but ignored the severe impacts that agrochemical inputs have on human health, the environment, biodiversity, and livelihoods.

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Females’ Employment Security in The Industrial Zones: The Case of Vinh Phuc Province

This research aims to assess the current employment security of the female employees in Vinh Phuc's industrial zones through a number of affecting factors and make some policy-oriented implications to improve the employment security of the female laborers in this location.

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The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – Opportunities and Challenges for Viet Nam

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a regional free trade agreement that will complement and build upon Viet Nam’s existing free trade agreements (FTAs) together with other 14 Indo-Pacific countries. As the name suggests, the RCEP is comprehensive in its coverage, attempting to regulate trade and investment liberalization. It exceeds the minimum standards prescribed by the World Trade Organization (WTO)2. RCEP negotiations were launched in 2012 between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)3 and ASEAN’s free trade agreement partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea)4. On 15 November 2020, ministers from 15 countries, at the 4thRCEP Leaders Summit excluding India signed the Agreement5.

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 Social Justice, Vietnam

Impact on Workers in Vietnam's Apparel and Footwear Sectors

The study aims to document the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on female migrant workers in Vietnam’s apparel and footwear industries over a period of six months, from February to July 2020, focusing on: (i) economic impacts (employment, income); (ii) health impacts (access to health services, healthcare, and infection prevention); and (iii) social impacts (constraints on families and individuals; need for future support).

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Labour amidst Globalization A Textual Comparison of Vietnamese and German Trade Union Laws

On the 1st of August 2020, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) entered into force since its ratification by the European Commission. The act signifies another step of Vietnam not only into the global market economy, but also into the international labour regime and standards since its historic 1986 ‘Renovation’ reforms that opened the country. With upcoming initiatives for economic rebound in a post-pandemic Europe and Vietnam, an examination of existing trade union landscape in Vietnam and effects of the new Labour Code, entered into force since 1st of January 2021, is in order.


From East Germany to West Germany and Vietnam to world trade—both represent assimilations of socialist states to global capitalism with widespread consequences at around the same time. The relevance goes deeper than a surface parallel with Vietnam’s unification in 1975: Germany and Vietnam hold more intimate ties in contemporary history, with both cooperating on many different fronts, from economy, international relations, to policy and legal training. Within such historical and political contexts, a comparison of Vietnamese and German trade union laws is well-merited to chart a tentative path forward for Vietnamese labour relations, given the continued cooperation between the two countries.

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 Social-ecological transformation

Belt and Road and the Pan-Asian Railway Network

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the intent to connect the world by strengthening infrastructure development. In the wake of this announcement, the Chinese government and Chinese companies began to lend billions of dollars to developing countries for transportation development, special economic zone expansion, and seaport construction. On the one hand, the initiative could bring tremendous economic opportunities to the least developed areas in the world. On the other, the socio-ecological impacts are considered to be negative.


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 Social Justice

Will EVFTA Help to Increase Real Wages for Vietnamese Workers?

The European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), effective on 1 August 2020, is one of the first two “new-generation” free trade agreements (FTAs) that Vietnam has joined. EVFTA promises to bring many benefits to Vietnam across areas ranging from trade, services, and investment to intellectual property, public procurement, labour, and the environment, among others. According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, wages of Vietnamese workers will be approximately one percent higher in foreign direct investment (FDI) enterprises than in domestic firms.

Even if the forecast of social benefits is a modest one, can a three percent wage increase by 2025 be achieved as expected? This is a question that should be studied thoroughly in order for policy-making to achieve the predicted benefits from EVFTA in practice.

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 Social Justice

The Many Climate Challenges Facing the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta region in southwestern Vietnam is home to over 20 million people, and is crucial to the country’s agricultural and aquaculture production. It is also a unique natural habitat, teeming with thousands of plant and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else. Yet it is also one of the parts of Southeast Asia most threatened by accelerating climate change.

Philip Degenhardt of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung’s Southeast Asia Office in Hanoi spoke with the Institute’s director, Nguyen Hieu Trung, to learn more about the challenges that climate change is imposing in the Mekong Delta, and how people are responding.

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