From “Frogs in the Lake” to “Learning to Stand Up”: Land Rights Social Mobilization in Cambodia



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This research examines resistance to forced eviction in two communities in Cambodia, Areng Valley and Boeung Kak Lake. The research asks how mobilization is being generated and sustained in a context which might discourage mobilization. My research in these communities demonstrates that residents resist eviction and relocation largely because of the harm that it would do to their livelihoods, and that they will continue to resist in the face of repression. This contrasts with the dominant non-critical narrative on development, which assumes that people will accept displacement if they are adequately compensated. I further demonstrate that via engagement in the conflict with the state and with the network of civil society, some community members are developing a new political consciousness and agency. This new political consciousness and agency is leading them to engage in sustained contention against the state. The network of civil society, at the transnational, regional, and local levels, plays an important role in generating and sustaining the mobilization, at a time when repression in increasing and opportunities for participation are closing. My research indicates that in order to improve outcomes for communities resisting development related eviction, donors should focus on strengthening civil society, particularly regional, South-to-South linkages. It also demonstrates that, for community members, eviction is a complex issue of livelihood, and they will resist relocation plans which do not fully address their economic needs.