The Political Economy of Cambodia's Transition, 1991-2001

The Political Economy of Cambodia's Transition, 1991-2001

The Political Economy of Cambodia's Transition, 1991-2001

The Political Economy of Cambodia's Transition, 1991-2001

Synopsis

Cambodia underwent a triple transition in the 1990s: from war to peace, from communism to electoral democracy, and from command economy to free market. This book addresses the political economy of these transitions, examining how the much publicised international intervention to bring peace and democracy to Cambodia was subverted by the poverty of the Cambodian economy and by the state's manipulation of the move to the free market. This analysis of the material basis of obstacles to Cambodia's democratisation suggests that the long-established theoretical link between economy and democracy stands, even in the face of new strategies of international democracy promotion.

Excerpt

The Cambodian state has been undergoing a triple transition since the 1980s - from command economy to free market; from war to peace; and from authoritarian rule to democracy. All three strands of transition have been intensively scrutinized and influenced by international intervenors in Cambodian affairs. All remain incomplete, insofar as the terms 'free market', 'peace' and 'democracy' are understood in the West. This study investigates the ways in which the first strand of transition - the transition from command economy to free market - has significantly influenced the possibilities for, and limits to, the other two strands. In particular, it seeks to demonstrate the ways in which the development of the Cambodian economy over the course of the 1990s has erected barriers to the emergence of substantive democracy in Cambodia.

The transition from command economy to free market took place by degrees, in Cambodia, following the collapse of the horrific experiments with total collectivization conducted by the Democratic Kampuchea (or Pol Pot) regime in the late 1970s. The restoration of privately farmed plots of land in the early 1980s proceeded to the embrace of market relations in all economic spheres in the late 1980s. This transition took place in the context of a civil war, the presence of Vietnamese troops, withholding of trade and aid from Western countries, and the struggle to rebuild a Cambodian state and to remake Cambodian society in the aftermath of the devastating Democratic Kampuchea regime during which up to two million Cambodians died.

The war that raged in the 1980s was conducted between a Phnom Penh-based regime and a resistance based on the border with Thailand. The Phnom Penh constitutional regime, initially named the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) and later renamed the State of Cambodia (SoC), was installed by the invading Vietnamese army in 1979, and controlled the majority of Cambodian territory. Opposing them was a resistance formed of remnants of three earlier regimes. Dominating the resistance militarily was the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea (NADK), more commonly

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