Transnational Networks, International Organizations and Political Participation in Cambodia: Human Rights, Labour Rights and Common Rights

  • Citation: Hughes, Caroline. "Transnational networks, international organizations and political participation in Cambodia: Human rights, labour rights and common rights." Democratization 14.5 (2007): 834-852.
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • South-East Asia
    • Cambodia
    • labour rights
    • human rights
    • environmental politics
    • political participation
    • authoritarian

Much international attention has been focused upon the promotion of a civil society in Cambodia, able to demand transparency and accountability from the Cambodian government. This article argues that international agencies, although apparently supportive of civil society, have in fact undermined the representation of collective interests in Cambodia through insistence on highly regulated and atomizing modes of participation, aimed at demobilizing and depoliticizing contentious groups in Cambodian society, and routing contentious politics through internationally sanctioned sites of participation. This trend in international engagement is traced across three issue areas – human rights, labour rights, and common rights in the forestry sector. In each case, it is argued, international agencies promoting neo-liberal agendas have taken the lead, at the expense of potentially radical transnational networks. The international backing awarded to local organizations has been highly conditional, and these organizations have consequently found it difficult to find political space to develop as autonomous actors. Because of this, an increasingly authoritarian state has been able to isolate and repress radical individual leaders. The result has been a dramatic shrinking of space for public participation in politics over the past ten years.

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