“Transnational Labour Regimes and Neo-Liberal Development in Cambodia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2020.1859122) is JCA’s first article published in 2021. It is authored by Dae-Oup Chang of the Global Korean Studies programme at Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea.
This article analyses the success and the crisis of Cambodian neo-liberal development through situating the country within global capitalism. Drawing on recent labour regime literature emphasising the multi-scalar formation of labour regimes that led to the advance of “transnational labour regimes” (TLRs), this article contends that, over the last two decades, Cambodian labour regimes have become increasingly a transnational process. The Cambodian state supported transnational employers in a desperate attempt to secure financial resources both for economic growth and as kickbacks for ruling elites. Meanwhile, non-binding private schemes and international monitoring played essential parts in maintaining TLRs, branding Cambodia an ethical producer despite poor labour standards and labour rights violations. This pattern of development, initially producing increased growth, eventually went into a crisis with the global recession from the late 2000s and escalating discontent among the local population against the Cambodian state. Labour disputes emerging from TLRs since the 2010s exacerbated already escalating disgruntlement among Cambodian citizens over the pattern of contemporary Cambodian development. Cambodia’s recent turn to more outright authoritarianism and one-party rule reflects the desperate attempt of Cambodian elites to sustain TLRs and their power amid this increasing discontent.