Using the Boeung Kak Lake development project (BKDP) as a case study, this paper explores how poor land development practices in Cambodia impede positive peace building. Viewed within the context of the country’s unfinished and prolonged land registration and legal reform efforts, the paper argues that there are three major problems acting as structural and proximate causes of land conflict in Cambodia: the disregard for the law and human rights, the lack of inclusiveness and transparency, and the misuse of the judicial system for coercive ends. These poor practices not only threaten the livelihood and psychological well being of affected communities, but also undermine the building of a more sustainable peace in Cambodia, by reinforcing a cycle of violence and diminishing a culture of trust and social cohesion between the state and the people. Nevertheless, viewed from a conflict transformation perspective, the BKDP case demonstrates another dynamic in protracted land conflicts: the growing role of internal forces (grassroots and local civil society), interacting with external forces (the international community), in fostering positive change.
Volume 3 - December 2014
On July 28, 2013, Cambodians went to the polls for the fifth time in 20 years and loudly voiced their desire for change. The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has ruled the country in various guises since 1979, reeled as its share of the 123-seat National Assembly was slashed from 90 seats to just 68 — its worst electoral performance since 1998. The remaining 55 seats were won by the newly formed Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which had deftly capitalized on the simmering discontent with the 29-year rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The surprise outcome was the result of profound social, economic, and demographic changes that have transformed Cambodia in recent years.
This paper provides a gender analysis of Code #6, the official policy of the Khmer Rouge regime on sexual relations. It argues that Code #6 was not primarily, if at all, an anti-rape policy and therefore does not exonerate senior Khmer Rouge cadre from the sexualized violence committed under their leadership. This paper reviews the mounting body of research on sexual violence during the Khmer Rouge regime, including personal testimonies from survivors and witnesses as part of the Cambodian Women’s Oral History Project. A counter narrative emerges: rather than protect victims, Code #6 facilitated the sexual abuse of women; and rather than provide recourse for victims and punishment for perpetrators, the Code was a disincentive for victims to seek justice and thereby promoted impunity for perpetrators. Linking Code #6 to forced marriage and the “enemy policy” — two of the five policies of the regime to accomplish its criminal ends that have been recognized by the ECCC — this paper suggest that sexualized violence may have played a larger role in the atrocities of that era than previously calculated, with Code #6 implicating rather than exculpating senior regime leaders.
In its Judgment of June 15, 1962, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the Temple complex falls within Cambodian territory. Dispute nevertheless continued about possession of the surrounding area, leading to periodic border skirmishes between 2008 and 2011 that resulted in deaths on both sides, displacement of Cambodian villagers, and temple damage. At the request of Cambodia, in 2013 the ICJ interpreted its 1962 Judgment. This interpretation helped to maintain international peace and security in the region by clarifying that Cambodia has sovereignty over the whole territory of the promontory of Preah Vihear and that Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw its military or other forces from that territory. Nevertheless, seen in the context of ICJ judgments in comparable disputes, the text of the Judgment is not without a source of potential disagreement that could become a possible excuse for non-compliance with the Judgment and consequently a possible future source of conflict between the two countries.
Cambodia is currently undertaking a process to overhaul its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) laws and regulations. This article describes some of the challenges Cambodia faces in the agriculture, hydropower, and mining sectors, and assesses four prominent beneficial features of the draft EIA law: (1) clarity with regard to institutional authorities and responsibilities; (2) public participation and information disclosure; (3) requirements of impacts to be considered; and (4) monitoring and enforcement.
Since the mid-1990s, the international community, members of Cambodian civil society, and the Cambodian Ministry of Defense have stressed the importance of reducing the number of soldiers in the Cambodian army. According to data collected by the London-based International Institute for Security Studies, in 2014 Cambodia had a civil-military balance of 8.2 active military personnel per 1000 capita, a surprisingly high number that can hardly be justified by the geopolitical situation in the country. In comparison, neighboring countries Thailand and Vietnam respectively have 5.3 and 5.2 active military personnel per 1000 capita, while in the UK and the US the balances are 2.6 and 4.7 per 1000 capita. Keeping such a large number of active military personnel not only suggests unjustified expenditures, but also may threaten the implementation of long-term conflict prevention in a country recently plagued by thirty years of civil war. Efforts to implement a proper Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program in Cambodia have faced challenges for twenty years, starting with the Paris Agreements in 1991. These attempts are the subject of this study.