Justice for the Poor? An Exploratory Study of Collective Grievances Over Land and Local Governance in Cambodia
90 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2007 Last revised: 1 May 2015
Date Written: October 1, 2006
The Cambodian land law has been rewritten twice in the past 20 years, firstly with the transition to a market economy in the early 1990s and then with the passing of a new land law in 2001. Despite these efforts at regulatory reform, land disputes are a major social, political and economic problem. This paper represents the result of a series of case studies on land disputes analyzed in the light previous scholarship dealing with issues of power and social structure in Cambodian villages. In trying to generate a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which power is exercised in rural Cambodia the paper looks specifically at collective grievances. This choice is informed by the possibility that collective action will offer an opportunity for the otherwise weak to extract greater responsiveness and accountability from the state. The paper's key findings relate to the existence of multiple rule systems for land management; the propensity for the tension between law and practice in land management to cause disputes; and the problematic nature of the attempt to skip to Weber - that is to impose legal/rational forms of authority on social relations which are structured around patrimonial power. In the absence of equitable rule based systems for allocating resources and resolving disputes the study concludes that political mobilization will be a necessary precursor to the success of rights based strategies.
Keywords: Law, land, governance, collective action, Cambodia
JEL Classification: Q15, P20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation