Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


Despite the rise of Cambodia’s GDP and other development indicators, continuing extreme poverty combined with very rapid conversion of traditional subsistence lands, forests, and waters into land concessions to national and transnational companies is leading to intensified land insecurity issues and other human rights problems that may destabilize the country. An elite sector of Cambodian society comprised of the heads of state, business, and the military is implicated as the central cause of ongoing poverty and land loss. This paper outlines the problematic nature of the concession processes that began in the post-conflict era and continue today, and adapts Roy Rappaport’s concepts of cognized/operational environments within a political and historical framework for analyzing the strategies of these elites, and compares their cognized environments with those of indigenous Kuy peoples whose lands are threatened by elite practice, and suggests that the highmodern discourses of development adhered to by the elites are based on ultimate sacred postulates just as much as the explicitly religious discourses of traditional Kuy peoples.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

2012 Keating, N. B. “From Spirit Forest to Rubber Plantation: The Accelerating Disaster of Development in Cambodia” ASIANetwork Exchange (Spring 2012) 19(2):68-80.

Publisher Statement

This journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.