East Asia Forum

Vietnam leads ASEAN through COVID-19

COVID-19 is posing serious challenges to ASEAN in 2020. But Vietnam, as ASEAN chair, is trying to make the best of the situation and demonstrate leadership. As 2020 marks a mid-term review of the implementation of the ASEAN Community Building Blueprints 2015–25, Vietnam chose ‘Cohesive ...

Bich T Tran

China’s post-COVID-19 woes to flow through the Mekong

As China shows signs of recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak, speculations abound about what a post-COVID-19 future will look like. Amid the cacophony of voices, consensus is gathering that global power balances will shift. What this shift might entail is fiercely debated. Some see China ...

Heidi Dahles, Griffith University

Thailand’s water shortage and inequality crisis

Shortages of water are a huge problem for Thailand. The government’s attempts to promote industrial investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) — Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao — has caused water demand in the region to rise drastically. This has diverted water away from farmers ...

Kanokwan Manorom, Ubon Ratchathani University

Laos is on course to graduate from least developed country status

Past policies that have enabled Laos to meet the UN’s least developed country (LDC) graduation thresholds are no longer adequate to ensure sustainable development. The focus of future policies should be on fostering greater productive capacity, increased economic diversification and enabling a stronger business environment. The ...

Buavanh Vilavong and Sitthiroth Rasphone

China’s hegemonic choice in the Mekong region

If you are the world’s second-largest power, what do you dream about? How do you go about making this dream come true? Put bluntly, the Mekong River region represents a crucial testing ground for Beijing’s mid- to long-term ambitions — not acknowledged officially — to become ...

Sebastian Biba

Raising agricultural productivity in Vietnam isn’t rocket science

After profound advances in manufacturing and services, most observers now believe that Vietnam is well-positioned to meet its principal Vision 2035 goal of achieving upper middle-income status. But sustained agricultural gains are by no means assured. Key agricultural officials recognise this. In 2013, the governmentintroduced an ‘agricultural restructuring’ ...

Malcolm McPherson

Upgrading the ASEAN–China Free Trade Agreement

In 2015, ASEAN and China signed an upgraded protocol to improve the original Framework Agreement for the ASEAN–China Free Trade Area (ACFTA). The upgraded protocol entered into force in July 2016 and implementation will start from August 2019. Since ACFTA was launched, China’s share of ASEAN ...

Jayant Menon and Anna Cassandra Melendez

Safeguarding labour migration in the Mekong region

In recent years, several UN agencies and NGOs have moved away from a narrow anti-trafficking focus to a broader focus on migration governance. It is within this context that ‘safe migration’ has become a popular approach for migration assistance provision. The Mekong region is a fertile ...

Sverre Molland

Expanding paternity leave in Southeast Asia

Statutory rights to maternity leave are available to working women in 185 countries, but only 78 offer statutory rights to paternity leave. Nordic countries set the global benchmark for policies that support men’s involvement in parenting, but paternity leave is fast becoming a hot topic ...

Marian Baird, Elizabeth Hill and Lisa Gulesserian

Asean must embrace digitisation for development

ASEAN needs to put a stronger focus on digital literacy to enable the full potential of an ASEAN digital economy and society by 2025. The internet and social media are making access to knowledge wider than ever. Digital technologies have transformed the way more than ...

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