By the same authors

Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Cambodia: Where Do (Human Rights) Law and Practice Meet

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Publication details

JournalInternational Development Policy
DatePublished - 2015
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)231–248
Original languageEnglish


Being anchored in the broader policy debate on the effectiveness of international human rights standards on the ground, this chapter inquires whether human rights carry any relevance in the Cambodian landscape of contestation of large-scale land acquisitions and long-term leases (LSLAs). Establishing that substantive and procedural obligations relevant to LSLAs result from Cambodia’s ratification of human rights treaties, the chapter examines whether and to what extent this normative framework informs the acts and actions of the government in relation to land transactions, and the strategies employed by affected communities. The study relies on legal analysis to unearth tensions between processes set in motion by land laws and shortcomings in their implementation in terms of transparency and information, accountability and redress, and identification of vulnerable groups. It also draws on desk and field research in a rural and an urban area of Cambodia to examine the mobilisation strategies employed by the two communities affected by LSLA-related forced evictions, especially focusing on processes of appropriation and adaptation of human rights by affected local communities, known as ‘vernacularization’. The chapter shows that the rural-urban spatiality, a constructed element, is of relevance in explaining the different configurations of social activism occurring in each setting and these configurations’ use of human rights: contrary to similarly LSLA-affected rural citizens, urban dwellers made extensive use of human rights language and human rights mechanisms to challenge their forced evictions and also achieved a certain success. Furthermore, the chapter shows that deficient governmental practice, in particular in the area of information and access to justice may play a role in entertaining this divided spatiality, especially by incapacitating the vernacularisation of human rights in rural settings.

    Research areas

  • large-scale land acquisitions, right to food, human rights, Cambodia

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