Kheang Un

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Neher, Clark D.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


Cambodia--Politics and government--1979-; Democracy--Cambodia; Democratization--Cambodia


Over the last several decades, democracy has emerged in many places throughout the world. This study contributes theoretically and comparatively to discussions of this process by offering empirical analysis of a case of internationally imposed democracy. It finds that in the Cambodian case, international intervention successfully imposed electoral democracy despite existing social, economic and political conditions. However, those existing conditions played a crucial role in obstructing the second transition—a transition from electoral democracy to a liberal democracy. This case study is important to our understanding of other cases caught in the “grey area” between authoritarianism and true liberal democracy, characterized by the rule of law and established political institutions to protect human rights and social justice. This study examines the lack of democratic consolidation in Cambodia between the general elections of 1993 and 2004. Democratic consolidation is explored through analysis of the workings of the Cambodian judicial system, including discussion of how the judiciary interacts with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) whose goals include promoting democracy and the rule of law. This study explains the lack of democratic consolidation through structural analysis juxtaposing state and society relations. Based on a year of research conducting interviews with NGO and government actors, this study shows that ten years after the introduction of democracy in 1993, the state continues to be governed by patronage networks sustained by corruption. Through patronage politics, elites have perpetuated themselves in power by undermining and distorting the rule of law and constitutionally established political institutions. Simultaneously and as a part of the broader democratic transition, civil society has begun to emerge. Before the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement (PPA), the public sphere was censured by the state, and the discourse of civil society did not exist. Despite the rapid growth of NGOs since the PPA, Cambodian civil society organizations have faced internal and external constraints. Consequently, they have not yet established themselves as a meaningful countervailing force to the state. In the absence of a meaningful societal pressure, political elites have not been willing to transform the political system. The analytical juxtaposition of state and society contributes to the discussion of the role of NGOs in democratic consolidation. This study finds that NGOs must possess certain characteristics and strategies before they can play the role of catalyst in democracy promotion. To be effective as a countervailing force to the state, NGOs need to be democratic, financially independent, and membership based, and they need to create linkages to progressive social and political organizations.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [306]-329).


ix, 329 pages




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