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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Growing political : how forest-related violence shapes community-based forest management in Cambodia Grant, Victoria Hollie


Community-based forest management (CBFM) projects support communities to take a central role in managing their local forests. Communities are asked to enforce the exclusion of illegitimate forest users and prevent illicit extraction of forest resources. However, the practices that CBFM aims to reduce (deforestation and illicit extraction of forest resources) are often facilitated by the use of direct violence. In seeking to reduce these practices, some participants in CBFM experience violent conflicts over forest use (hereafter, forest-related violence). Such violence presents a threat to the lives and human rights of CBFM participants and has the potential to undermine the effective implementation of forest conservation activities. Yet, the extent of forest-related violence in community-managed forests, exactly how it manifests, who is involved, or the outcomes of such violence for CBFM participants and their CBFM practices are not well known. This dissertation explores these issues in the case study country of Cambodia. I draw on data collected between May and December 2015 through a national survey of eighteen NGOs involved in CBFM in Cambodia, semi-structured interviews with one hundred and fifty participants in forty CBFM sites, and participant observation in forest patrols and CBFM training sessions. I demonstrate that forest-related violence is widespread across Cambodia affecting seventy-five per cent of CBFM groups interviewed and seventy-two per cent of NGOs surveyed. I argue that these ‘incidents’ of violence are not discrete but, rather, are the manifestation of a succession of violent processes in which Cambodia’s neopatrimonial socio-political system is central. Furthermore, neopatrimonialism facilitates processes of structural and symbolic violence that preclude effective responses to direct forest-related violence. As a consequence, forest-related violence acts as a disciplinary mechanism inciting fear and undermining the effectiveness of CBFM practices. Yet, it also acts as a catalyst for the re-politicization of CBFM practices and re-conceptualization of CBFM participants’ relationships with the environment, other forest users, and the government. Thus, this dissertation directs attention to the lived experience of forest-related violence and exposes the ‘tomorrow of violence’ – the enduring legacies of violence that configure the way people conceptualize themselves, their government, and the international development community.

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