(P13AB) Cambodia at a Crossroads? Democracy and Development on the 30th Anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements
Part 1Session 3
Wed 14:30-16:00 K12 | 2.18
Part 2Session 4
Wed 16:30-18:00 K12 | 2.18
Save This EventAdd to Calendar
A farewell to Everything But Arms? Trade for the development of authoritarian neoliberalism in Cambodia
Sabina Lawreniuk University of Nottingham
Cambodia’s ‘descent into outright dictatorship’ since 2017 coincides with the wider geopolitical ascent of authoritarian variants of neoliberalism. The EU’s response to the deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia has been nonetheless stark: an unprecedented partial suspension of Cambodia’s inclusion in its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement. The EBA aims to promote trade for development by granting LDC imports duty-free access to EU markets on condition of human rights compliance. Losing these trade preferences will be costly for Cambodia, whose ‘miracle’ post-conflict growth and transition to lower-middle-income status is built on a structural dependence on garment exports to the EU under the EBA. Drawing on original data collected through a 3-year institutional ethnography of the labour movement in Cambodia, incorporating testimony of garment workers, trade unionists, labour rights advocates and employer associations in Phnom Penh, as well as government representatives on both sides of the dispute, in this paper I present a grassroots critique of the rise and demise of the EBA in Cambodia. Whilst highlighting the Cambodian government’s complicity, I argue the authoritarian repression of women’s garment activism that has been cited as a primary cause for the EU’s triggering of sanctions is a consequence of the deprivations engendered by neoliberal trade reform in Cambodia promoted by the EBA. The adverse terms of integration into the global garments market have exacted downwards pressure on Cambodian workers’ livelihoods since the EBA’s introduction, incentivising the Cambodian government to employ labour repression to stifle dissent in order to maintain global competitivity and shore its precariously lopsided national economy. The revocation of the EBA only compels the intensification of this trend. Building on recent critical theorisation of the development potential offered by global value chain integration (e.g. Selwyn 2019), the paper highlights the contradictory entanglements of the EU’s ostensibly democracy-promoting free trade tools in the counter development of authoritarian neoliberalism in Cambodia.
International communities, peace agreement, and political survival in Cambodia
Sokphea Young University College London
International communities have been deemed as guardians of Cambodia’s democracy, peace, stability and development. Signed by nineteenth countries from a mixture of political background: democracy, socialism and communism, the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement becomes a platform referred by parties for Cambodia’s political settlement and endeavour to democratisation. As an expansion of the book entitled “Strategies of authoritarian survival and dissensus in Southeast Asia,” this paper discusses how international communities, especially the signatory countries of the Paris Agreement, contribute to the ruling party’s office tenure. It argues that the ambiguous roles and the complex geopolitical stands of these parties endow the ruling regime’s grip onto authoritarianism and power. In the era of rising authoritarianism and populism of the ruler, nationalism and sovereignty are iconoclastic rhetoric deployed by the ruler to justify their endeavours against the democratisation effort of the Western democratic regimes.
Laurie Parsons Royal Holloway, University of London
The Geopolitical Framing of Mass Violence: From the Paris Peace Agreements to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
James Tyner Kent State University
In this paper I explore the memorialization of mass violence and genocide in Cambodia set against the backdrop of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements. Specifically, I contrast the geopolitical framing of mass violence as articulated in the Paris Peace Agreements with subsequent efforts to prosecute high-ranking officials of the former Communist Party of Kampuchea at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, otherwise known as the ‘Khmer Rouge Tribunal’. In doing so, I highlight key differences in the codified remembrance of mass violence and consider how these disparities impinge on future practices of reconciliation.
Authoritarian Borrowing and Constitutional Convergence in Cambodia
Benjamin Lawrence National University of Singapore
Although control over Cambodia’s legal system has been central to the perpetuation of the political hegemony of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) since 1993, the weaponization of law in Cambodia has intensified in recent years. A feature of this development has been an increased tendency to borrow directly from other illiberal or autocratic regimes. For example, Thailand was explicitly cited as the inspiration for the 2017 amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which precipitated the dissolution of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party that same year. The introduction of lèse-majesté offences to the Criminal Code in 2018 appears to be another prominent instance of borrowing from Thai law, although it was not explicitly recognized as such. An amendment to Article 49 of the Cambodian Constitution, which prohibits actions by all citizens that “affect the interests” of the nation or its citizens, appears to be borrowed from China’s constitution. Finally, the Supreme Council for Consultation and Recommendation, created under the supervision of the Council of Ministers, resembles China’s People’s Political Consultative Conference. Yet, the weaponisation of law in Cambodia – which can be understood as part of an attempt to shift towards ‘sophisticated authoritarianism’ – has also seen the continuation of a longstanding trend: the mimicking of laws from liberal democratic systems found in the west (often from major aid donors), which are in turn put to illiberal or undemocratic ends. By analyzing legal change and institutional innovation in Cambodia from a comparative perspective, this paper demonstrates how Cambodia’s hegemonic turn has been reflected in a diversification of legal borrowing by the CPP, and asks what this says about the relationship between law and political legitimacy in contemporary Cambodia.
Between the State and the Electorate? How Cambodian Journalists Define Democracy
Lilli Tabea Albrecht Mahidol University
Once praised as a successful case of externally administered democratic transition, Cambodia is sliding further towards authoritarianism. Journalism and democracy have long been closely intertwined. In democracies, journalists are often considered the “fourth estate of government” and are ascribed key roles in democracies: as watchdogs to monitor government performance, to represent the public, and as a source of information for both the electorate and the state. Employing a qualitative approach, this paper seeks to understand how Cambodian journalists perceive their role in relation to the state and the electorate and how they define democracy. Primary data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 10 Cambodian professional journalists. The interviews focused on their work as journalists, their definition and thoughts on democracy and the Cambodian media landscape, and political reporting in Cambodia. Most participants would not consider Cambodia fully democratic as they highlighted the importance of upholding human rights, especially civil and political rights within a democracy. Participants considered supplying information to the general population as the most important role of journalists in Cambodia. This paper aims to contribute to a discourse on democratization, local definitions of democracy and the roles of journalists within a democracy. This is especially important at a time in which we experience democratic backsliding and a turn toward more authoritarian-style politics across the globe.
Local Leadership in Cambodia 2007-2020: a Re-Study of Three Communes
Caroline Hughes University of Notre Dame
Netra Eng Cambodia Development Resource Institute
October 2021 marks the 30-year anniversary of Cambodia’s Paris Peace Agreements. Signed in 1991, the historic accords marked the end of Cambodia’s protracted civil conflict and wield global significance as the first major multilateral peace accord to follow the end of the Cold War. Steeled and sealed in an era of heady (neo)liberal optimism, the Paris treaties
ushered the era of UNTAC, a United Nations peacekeeping force, tasked with a threefold mission: to steer Cambodia from war to peace, from authoritarianism to democracy, and from a command to free market economy. Through the 90s and 00s, rapid rates of economic growth shored Cambodia’s reputation as the poster-boy of post-war transitions. But against the promises of the end-of-history idealists, growth, democracy and development have not come hand-in-hand. Thirty-years on, Cambodia presents a de facto one-party state, under the 35-year reign of an aging autocrat, whose stability is secured
through violent repression of conflict over extraction of resources and profit. Labour and human rights abuses have led the EU to enforce trade sanctions, as the US considers following suit. Has the poster-boy become a pariah? And yet, as relations with the West cool, Cambodia’s ties with China’s growing global influence tighten. Amid the turbulence, a cultural enaissance and popular struggles quietly flourish. At this timely juncture, we invite critical reflections on the legacy of the Paris Peace Accords and the trajectory of Cambodia’s transition: past, present and prospect.