Non-government Organizations, Villagers, Political Culture and the Lower Sesan 2 Dam in Northeastern Cambodia

Author: Ian Baird


The Lower Sesan 2 Hydropower Project in the northeastern Cambodian is presently under construction. As the largest dam to ever be built in Cambodia, it is expected to cause serious and widespread environmental and social impacts. This article analyzes, on the on hand, the relationships between Cambodian non-government organizations (NGOs) and villagers who will be negatively impacted by Lower Sesan 2, and on the other, NGO relations with the Cambodian state. While development actors frequently attempt to construct particular narratives in order to control development trajectories, this research demonstrates that such attempts can meet with serious resistance from local people, even when facing powerful opponents, including in this case NGOs that prefer to advocate for better resettlement and compensation conditions rather than for the cancellation of projects. Focusing on interactions, positioning, local agency, and the particular political culture of Cambodia, this article highlights the importance of particular types of patronage relations in Cambodia between NGOs and villagers, NGOs and the state, and associated territorialization.

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