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Cambodia’s anti-corruption regime 2008-2018: A critical political economy approach

Cambodia’s anti-corruption reforms have been critical to consolidating power in the hands of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. Financial management reforms and decentralisation processes promote a liberal rather than democratic agenda. Given China’s close relationship with Cambodia, the ruling party will likely continue this path. Donor strategies for reducing corruption need to be clear about how interventions will deliver democratic dividends. Opportunities may exist to create anti-corruption coalitions supported by social groups, particularly at the commune level.

3 January 2019
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Cambodia’s anti-corruption regime 2008-2018: A critical political economy approach

Main points

  • A number of anti-corruption initiatives have been successfully implemented in Cambodia in the face of increasingly authoritarian rule on the part of the Cambodian People’s Party.
  • Cambodia’s anti-corruption reforms are fundamentally liberal rather than democratic in orientation, which implies regime-friendly and selective implementation.
  • Liberal anti-corruption reforms such as public finance management reform, public expenditure tracking surveys and decentralisation reform, effectively deepen Cambodia’s market capitalism and provide ways for the neopatrimonial state to rationalise and reorganise the shadow economy, and consolidate power relations.
  • Arresting current reform dynamics would require a reorganisation and reconsolidation of Cambodia’s anti-corruption coalition.
  • Strategies for deepening Cambodia’s anti-corruption reforms need to distinguish more rigorously between liberal and democratic notions of accountability and be clear-eyed about exactly how interventions will deliver democratic dividends.

Cite this publication

Baker, J.; Milne, S.; (2019) Cambodia’s anti-corruption regime 2008-2018: A critical political economy approach. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2019:1)

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About the authors

Jacqui Baker

Dr Jacqui Baker is a Lecturer in Southeast Asian politics at Murdoch University, Australia. Her areas of research include the political economy of Southeast Asia, the politics of policing and corruption, and Indonesian politics.

Sarah Milne

Sarah Milne is a Lecturer in the Resources, Environment and Development group at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. She holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.


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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)