Labour and Politics in Cambodia


Labour and Electoral Politics in Cambodia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1963810) is a new article by Kristy Ward and Michele Ford, both of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, The University of Sydney in Australia.

The abstract states:


In 2013, the Cambodian People’s Party faced two major threats: a near loss at the ballot box in the national election and large-scale demonstrations by garment workers dissatisfied with the minimum wage. Unsurprisingly, the government responded by cracking down on the opposition, the independent media and civil society groups. Labour leaders were persecuted and legislation passed that undermined unions’ ability to organise and register. Less predictably, this crackdown was accompanied by an attempt to woo garment workers through policies that delivered tangible benefits to them as individuals. There was a marked shift in the party’s focus from its traditional rural constituency to the urban working class. In this article we examine how labour acts collectively to shape politics within authoritarian regimes. We do this by interrogating labour’s role at a time when the state was clearly shifting towards hegemonic authoritarianism. By re-assessing the 2013 and 2018 national elections through this lens, we demonstrate the bidirectional nature of state–labour relations even in authoritarian regimes. We conclude that, even where election results are largely predetermined, elections can provide opportunities for workers to strengthen their position by prompting shifts in not only in patronage but in policy.


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