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Land grabbing in Cambodia: Narratives, mechanisms, resistance

Rural areas in Cambodia have been the target of large-scale land acquisitions since the late 1990s. As of March 2012, economic land concessions in Cambodia covered more than 2 million hectares, equivalent to over half of the country’s arable land. In this paper, the authors discuss the policy narratives and discursive strategies that are employed by various actors to justify and legitimize large-scale land acquisitions. They then analyze the underlying mechanisms of such acquisitions and investments and examine how they are entangled with donor-assisted land use planning efforts. Finally, they explore local people’s strategies of resistance. Their findings suggest that the Cambodian ruling elite has enabled land grabbing through three major mechanisms: first, by establishing a form of ‘shadow governance’ and corrupting the legal culture; second, by discursively justifying expropriation and resettlement through emphasizing rural development, ecological restoration and poverty alleviation; third, by instrumentalizing donor-supported, pro-poor land allocation in the form of social land concessions towards legitimizing land grabbing and distributional injustices and minimizing opposition to land grabs among local communities. Local strategies of resistance have been desperate, sporadic and atomistic vis-à-vis the powerful coalition of government authorities, concessionaires and the military. This paper was presented at the international conference on global land-grabbing, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, October 2012.

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Additional Info

Field Value
Document type Reports, journal articles, and research papers (including theses and dissertations)
Language of document
  • English
  • Concessions
  • Economic land concessions and plantations
  • Land
  • Land and housing rights and evictions
  • Land policy and administration
Geographic area (spatial range)
  • Cambodia
Copyright No
Version / Edition 1.0
License unspecified

Andreas Neef Chair of Resource Governance and Participatory Development, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Yoshida-Honmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan. Phone: +81-75-753-5922; Email:

Siphat Touch Department of Research and Training, Ministry of Rural Development, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Email:

Author (individual) Neef, Andreas
Co-author (individual) Touch, Siphat
Publisher Land Deal Politics Inititiative (LDPI)
Publication date 2012
Pagination 23 p
Date uploaded June 14, 2015, 22:47 (UTC)
Date modified June 17, 2016, 11:08 (UTC)