Contesting land grabs, negotiating statehood the politics of international accountability mecha...


In Cambodia, rural citizens embroiled in protracted land grabbing cases with the state and private companies are turning increasingly to international accountability mechanisms for resolution. This article applies the interlinked concepts of hybrid governance and legal pluralism to understand the prospects and limitations of 'forum-shopping' through appeals to international mechanisms for rural communities affected by land grabs. Drawing on interviews and using process tracing, it examines the outcomes of a mediation case filed with the International Finance Corporation's Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) involving indigenous groups and a Vietnamese rubber company in north-east Cambodia. It argues that while international accountability mechanisms yield platforms for dispossessed groups to assert claims, they also reify choices between entitlements and attainability without circumventing the problems associated with justice delivery under Cambodia's authoritarian regime. Overall, this study highlights the interaction, competition and collaboration between distinct forms of regulatory authority exercised by national and transnational actors involved in land grabbing cases in Cambodia, demonstrating their role in ‘negotiating statehood' by governing local claims to land.