A Law for Land, A Land for a Nation

Full panel title

A Law for Land, A Land for a Nation: From State’s and Private’s Interventions to the Organisations of Local Resistances in Southeast Asia


Téphanie Sieng (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales)

Date and time

Double session

12 August, 11:00 – 12:30
12 August, 14:00 – 15:30


Room 48


Session I

  • Land Reform and the Filipino Peasant Women’s Struggles
    Cynthia Bejeno (International Institute of Social Studies)
  • Shock Waves, Confined Impulses? New Forms of Contestations against Land Encroachment in Cambodia
    Frederic Bourdier (IRD France)
  • The Problem of Land Access in Colonial Cambodia
    Mathieu Guérin (CASE UMR 8170 / INALCO)
  • Unequal Development: Land Dynamics in South East Asia Mountains Regions
    Nguyen Tran Lam (Oxfam Vietnam)

Session II

  • Order, Resistance, and the Ethical Subject: Negotiating Hyper-Visibility and Precarity on the Thailand-Myanmar Border
    Adam Saltsman (Boston College)
  • The Price of Independence: From the Sacrifice of a Province to the Competition for Lands at Ratanakiri
    Téphanie Sieng (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales)
  • Liminal Legality, Grounded Resistance: Peasants’ Reclaiming Movement in North Sumatra, Indonesia
    Yen-ling Tsai (National Chiao Tung University)

Panel abstract

Since the 2008 World food-price crisis, land-grabbing has become a crucial issue in rural Southeast Asia. Local communities, increasingly destitute, are expecting public policies that could sustain land-security and socio-economic development. But such legitimate expectations from the state are seriously challenged by numerous factors: the rise and integration of market exchange, the deregulation of the economy, increases in cash-crop technical farming transformations, the expansion of international concessions, and the domination of the urban elite over the means of production and unregistered lands. Southeast Asia has subsequently become an area of conflicts plagued with asymmetry in negotiations and violent rebellions. In addition to the consequences of unregulated capitalism, recent land- policies have been paradoxically accompanied by greater land insecurity and forced displacements. At the same time, the progressive loss of ambition to govern at the national level is weakening institutions and it is gaping a social divide. This raises an important question: how far are the most vulnerable groups able to mobilize against dispossession in a context of state’s withdrawal?

Problems of land-conflict and social status concern relationships between people, states and international organisations. Given that this is so, does the rise of conflicts reveal a failure in the traditional systems of law, or should we rather speak of a “dynamic process of internal adjustment”? With the help of a few case-studies, it will be interesting to examine to what extent compromises and acts of resistance can be made in the event of land dispossession.

The aim of this panel is to explore the local initiatives and choices made, as well as their consequences, related to rural land matters. This will enable us better to understand the main trends in the relations between individuals, organised associations from the civil society, various lobbying groups and geopolitical forces operating in Southeast Asia.