In rural Cambodia indiscriminate, illegitimate and often violent land grabs in the form of Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) have triggered myriad local responses by peasants facing evictions from private and communal lands. Drawing on fieldwork in Kratie and Koh Kong provinces, this chapter looks at the various forms of local resistance to government-sanctioned dispossession and displacement and discusses their effectiveness in bringing about socio-political and institutional change. Our case study results do not confirm the predominance of everyday politics as the preferred resistance strategy of peasants, as postulated by Scott (1986) and Kerkvliet (2009) for other Southeast Asian countries. Cambodian peasants have responded to dispossession and displacement by employing a myriad of resistance strategies, ranging from road blockades, open confrontations with security guards and military personnel, demonstration marches and petitions to various forms of advocacy resistance and everyday politics. Their selection from a range of resistance strategies does not follow a clear pattern, but appears to respond to the varying levels and strategies of oppression deployed by government representatives, concessionaires and members of the armed forces. This has created a particular dialectic between domination and resistance, reminiscent of Polanyi’s ‘double-movement’ (Polanyi 1944). In the case of Cambodia this takes the form of a continuous oscillation between forced commodification of natural resources by domestic and foreign elites on the one hand and the combination of overt and covert resistance strategies by the rural peasantry on the other. Yet we also find that these local resistance movements have been mostly desperate, sporadic and atomistic vis-à-vis the powerful coalition of government authorities, concessionaires and the military. Cambodian peasants lack organization across village boundaries as a result of decades of conflict and unrest, and their voices have been ignored by the home governments of the investors, who continue to regard the country as a promising new haven of investment, trade and tourism, where displacement and dispossession of the poor is deemed unavoidable. Unless the rural peasantry in Cambodia finds a common and much stronger voice and gets support from national and international advocacy groups beyond mere lip service, powerful elite interests will continue to prevail over local people’s rights.
Authors and Publishers
The Rise of the BRICS
The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague is part of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR).
It is a graduate institute of policy-oriented critical social science, founded in 1952 and able to draw on sixty years of experience.
The Land Deal Politics Initiative (LDPI) is a network of the research programme of Political Economy of Resources, Environment and Population (PER) of the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Part of Erasmus University Rotterdam.
The aim of LDPI is for a broad framework encompassing the political economy, political ecology and political sociology of land deals.
Our general framework is based on answering 6 key questions:
- Who owns what?
The Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) was established in 1998 at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand in response to the need for integration of social science and natural science knowledge in order to gain a better understanding of sustainable development issues in upper mainland Southeast Asia. RCSD has, since that time, striven to become a truly regional center for sustainable development issues, linking graduate training and research to development policy and practice.
The Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world. For more than 40 years, TNI has served as a unique nexus between social movements, engaged scholars and policy makers.
The Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world.
The purpose of the Mekong Land Research Forum online site is to provide structured access to published and unpublished research on land issues in the Mekong Region. It is based on the premise that debates and decisions around land governance can be enhanced by drawing on the considerable volume of research, documented experience and action-based reflection that is available.