Microfinance in Times of COVID-19 and Loan Restructuring Policy in Brief

Phasy RES

The Center for Khmer Studies

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers raised concerns about high levels of household over-indebtedness, questioning the relationship between debt and household vulnerability. In 2017, a sector-sponsored survey (N= 802) was conducted with household borrowers in 12 provinces and Phnom Penh, and it suggests that 28% of micro-finance household borrowers were insolvent, and another 22% were at risk (MFC and Good Return 2017). Concerning over-indebtedness, many researchers have pointed to several problems: land loss (Green 2018; Green & Bylander forthcoming), distressed migration (Bylander 2014; Ovesen and Trankell 2014; Green and Estes 2018; LICADHO 2020), and declining household nutrition through a reduction in food consumption (Seng 2018). COVID-19 pandemic, which induced economic slowdown and unemployment, has dramatically exacerbated vulnerable households’ livelihoods, especially micro-finance borrowers, in the country. Given these challenges, the World Bank (2020: 3) claims that “the global epidemiological and economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19 poses the greatest threat to Cambodia’s development in its 30 years of modern history.” The Bank continues, “poverty could increase between 3 to 11 percentage points from a 50 per cent income loss that lasts for six months for households engaged in tourism, wholesale and retail trade, garment, construction, or manufacturing.” In this essay, we attempt to briefly describe how the loan restructuring policy was enforced by financial institutions (FIs) and examine the extent to which this policy has benefited the debt-distressed or economically vulnerable households, and how they cope with the effects of the pandemic.

In response to COVID-19 induced economic crisis, loan restructuring policy or known in Khmer as Kareapcham Inatean Loeung Vinh or, in short, Inatean Saloueng Vinh policy, emerged. This directly follows a request by the government for leniency on debt-stressed borrowers impacted by the COVID-19. In March 2020, the Prime Minister of Cambodia called on financial institutions to be lenient towards borrowers and not to confiscate collateral assets from the debt-distressed households. Following the Prime Minister’s request, on 27 March 2020, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) issued a circular requesting banks and microfinance institutions to carry out a loan restructuring policy to relieve the debt burden of their clients whose incomes were adversely affected by the COVID-19.

To address the debt-distressed issues, NBC recommended nine options for the banks and financial institutions: 1) Reductions in the principal amount or the amount to be paid at maturity; 2) Reductions of the interest rate to a rate lower than in the original loan agreement; 3) Extension of time for the loan principal or interest repayment or interest capitalisation; 4) Extension of maturity; 5) Addition of and/or change of joint borrower or guarantor (if any); 6) Change in loan type from an instalment loan to a bullet loan; 7) Waiver of or reduction of collateral requirement; 8) Reduction of contract condition; and, 9) Provision of a grace period, which could last for six months counting from the effective date of the new contract.

To date, according to Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA), there were USD 1.3 billion worth of total loans being restructured or around 16 per cent of total outstanding loans in 2020. As of December 2020, 271,117 borrowers (about 12 per cent of the total number of borrowing households) have benefited from some forms of loan restructuring. The CMA and Association of Banks in Cambodia then called on the NBC to extend the loan restructure policy into 2021, as the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis remains in addition to the flood crisis (White 2020). The NBC granted the request so that the loan restructuring policy will continue until mid- 2021 (Sok 2020).    

While the nine options and loan restructuring have been officially implemented, it is not clearly defined by NBC what should be involved or who should receive which option. As such, the banks and FIs have opted for their discretion in responses to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, the implementation of the loan restructure policy varies from an institution to another. However, the financial institutions with which we spoke offered three key aspects of restructuring available for COVID-19 affected borrowers:

  1. Payment Holiday: Borrowers granted a payment holiday is not required to repay loans at all for a specified period. The interest payments associated with that period of time are added to the left-over principal amount, and a new repayment schedule will be issued at the end of the payment holiday.
  2. Period Extension: With a period extension, loan periods are extended so that the monthly payment is reduced to a level within the borrowers’ capacity to repay.
  3. Grace Period: Borrowers granted a grace period have the option to repay only interest payments for a specified period of time. This allows them to minimise monthly payments and not pay down the principal for the duration of the grace period.

Our data from interviewing borrowers (N=119) and FI representatives (N= 34) show that the popular option enforced was the “grace period.” We found that 16 were given a grace period, 6 were granted a payment holiday, and in one case, a FI allowed a borrower to repay flexibly. 11 borrowers approached the FIs but were verbally rejected because of ineligibility of the sector (6 borrowers) and the loan restructuring was generally unavailable in their areas (5 borrowers). Seven borrowers were offered a “grace period” but rejected the offer because they were concerned about the financial loss (khart) it would create. Meanwhile, thirty-one borrowers were not aware of the loan restructuring policy at all, and the rest either had the ability to repay or approached their FI for the fear of impacting their credit history and/or being ashamed. The unawareness of the existence of loan restructuring policy is consistent with a finding of a survey (N = 997) conducted in July 2020 with registered and non-registered medium, small, and micro-enterprises of tourism-related businesses in four zones in Cambodia. The survey found that 60 per cent of the respondents were not aware of the bank/MFI debt restructuring policy (The Asia Foundation 2020). 

Not only have FIs limited options for the COVID-19 impacted households, but they also decided not to publicise the loan restructuring policy. Since the loan restructuring policy is informed to clients on a case-by-case basis, many, predominantly, low-income household borrowers in the rural areas are not aware of the policy.

During our field visit, there is a growing sense of fear and confusion among debt-distressed households. These households do not know what kind of supports could be provided to them. A case study below illustrates this sense of fear.

Pu (uncle) Theurn and Ming (aunt) Mao started borrowing in 2014; their first loan was to buy a tractor to plough their 15 hectares of land. After a few years (he could not recall exactly when), his corn and cassava production failed due to drought, at which point the household began to struggle to repay their debts. After sustained losses, the couple decided to sell the tractor. However, they could not repay all the debt, and they decided to sell 10 hectares of their land to repay the loan. At the time of the interview, the middle-aged couple was chopping cassava roots, which were not fully ready to harvest but were harvested a few months early because the couple needed the money to repay the micro-finance debt. Our research team asked him (husband) about the key risks he perceived in agriculture, using the Khmer term phey, literally translated as “to be fearful of.” He responded jokingly, “The main phey (fear)is the due repayment date because I have to repay one after another.” After finishing the sentence, he laughed gently. This story reflects a reality for many borrowers who are struggling to repay—the feeling of phey (fear). To date, the couple is still struggling to make their monthly repayments.

(Chopping premature cassava root Phnom Preuk district, Battambang 2020.
Photo by Phasy RES

Overall, it is important to make all options of loan restructuring available to all COVID-19‑affected borrowers. As evidenced in this case study, debt-distressed households can resort to coping strategies, such as land sale, migration, food consumption reduction, repayment phobia, or fear of FI’s retaliation: collateral confiscation. All of which has (and will continue to have) exacerbated economic vulnerability. At last, the loan restructuring policy should remain even after COVID-19, and other forms of restructuring such as debt forgiveness or interest cancellation should be considered.

This is an excerpt from a study report to be released in June 2021. The full report can be found here on the website of The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) or The Asia Foundation (TAF) in English and Khmer.


Phasy RES is a doctoral student in anthropology and sociology at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a research fellow at The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) under The Asia Foundation’s Ponlok Chomnes Program, funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Her PhD research looks at the relationship between microfinance expansion and land security by examining how access to microcredit shapes land access and control in Cambodia. At CKS, under Ponlok Chomes Program, she specifically examined the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on microfinance borrowers and loan restructuring processes. Apart from these, she has conducted research on a range of topics, including agricultural mechanisation and intensification, anti-malaria drug resistance, the subjectivities of financial literacy, and labour migration in the Sub-Mekong region. Her work has been published in Espace Politique, Malaria Journal, Development Policy Review, Development and Change, and Mekong Migration Network.

The views expressed in this article are solely mine


Bylander, Maryann. 2014. “Borrowing across Borders: Migration and Microcredit in Rural Cambodia.” Development and Change 45(2):284–307.

Green, W. Nathan. 2018. “From Rice Fields to Financial Assets: Valuing Land for Microfinance in Cambodia.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (44): 749– 762

Green, W. Nathan and Jennifer Estes. 2018. “Precarious Debt: Microfinance Subjects and Intergenerational Dependency in Cambodia.” Antipode 51(1):129–47

Green W. Nathan & Bylander. Forthcoming. The Coercive Power of Debt: Microfinance and Land Dispossession in Cambodia.

LICADHO. 2020. Driven out: One village’s experience with MFIs and Cross-border migration. LICADHO. Available at from https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=229.

MFC and Good Return. 2017.  Over-indebtedness Study Cambodia II: Final Report. Phnom Penh: Microfinance Center and Good Return (unpublished).

Ovesen, Jan and Ing-Britt Trankell. 2014. “Symbiosis of Microcredit and Private Moneylending in Cambodia.” The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 15(2):178–96.

Seng, Kimty. 2018. “Revisiting Microcredit’s Poverty-Reducing Promise: Evidence from Cambodia: Microcredit’s Poverty-Reducing Promise.” Journal of International Development 30(4):615–42.

Sok, Chan. November 2020. “Banks and FI loan restructuring extended to until mid-2021.” Khmer Times.  https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50785076/banks-and-fi-loan-restructuring-extended-until-mid-2021/

The Asia Foundation. 2020. Enduring the pandemic: rapid survey in the impact of COVID-19 on MSMES in the tourism sector and households in Cambodia. The Asia Foundation. Available at: https://asiafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Cambodia_Enduring-the-Pandemic_RAPID-SURVEY-ON-THE-IMPACT-OF-COVID-19-ON-MSMES-IN-THE-TOURISM-SECTOR-AND-HOUSEHOLDS-IN-CAMBODIA_EN.pdf.

White, Harrison. 2020. MFIs call on NBC to extend loan restructuring into next year. Khmer Times.  Available at: https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50784701/mfis-call-on-nbc-to-extend-loan-restructuring-into-next-year/.

World Bank. 2020. Cambodia Economic Update: Cambodia in the Time of COVID-19- Special Focus: Teacher Accountability and Student Learning Outcomes. Available at: http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/165091590723843418/pdf/Cambodia-Economic-Update-Cambodia-in-the-Time-of-COVID-19-Special-Focus-Teacher-Accountability-and-Student-Learning-Outcomes.pdf

Why Dictators Are Dumb but Can Still Outsmart Others

Sorpong Peou |Ryerson University | Canada

When I say that dictators are dumb, I do not mean to suggest that they do not know how to dictate the way their citizens live or society function. Dictators can be very smart people with high IQ scores. But they tend to become dumb over time because of their tendency to err on the side of relying on too much force rather than too little of it and just do not know when to stop or how to call it quits.

We may need to give dictators a lot of credit for behaving the way they do, and for holding to power when no one else is willing or able to do the same. World history is filled with dictators, the first of whom came to power in Rome around 510 B.C. Until Julius Caesar became dictator for life, however, most dictators left office when their tasks given to them during emergencies were completed.

Oftentimes, dictators’ reigns of terror end tragically. Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. Napoleon Bonaparte of France has been considered by historians to be the first modern dictator. He enjoyed popularity because he did some good things for his country, such as balancing the budget, reforming state institutions, and writing the Civil Code that laid the foundation of France’s current civil law. Sadly, he did not seem to know when to stop or call its quits. In 1804, he crowned himself emperor, established a network of spies to tighten his control over the government and the press, and pursued his political ambition by invading other countries across Europe. He could not be stopped until Great Britain, Prussia, Spain and Portugal surrounded his empire and when his generals rebelled against him. He was forced to give up his throne and was exiled for good in 1815, after a brief return to power.

More recent dictators also did not know when to call it quits until they were removed from power by force or execution. Adolf Hitler started WWII, was defeated by the Allied Powers and then committed suicide. His ally, Fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, was shot to death and stoned. Pol Pot of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror was known as Brother Number One but ended up as Brother Number Zero. His regime kept slaughtering innocent people and many of his party’s members, but was then driven out of power and eventually arrested by those who served under him. His life was put to an end. Saddam Hussein of Iraq was executed after he had been found in a muddy foxhole. More can be said about Gadhafi of Libya whose fate was sealed after NATO destroyed his armed loyalists.

Health-related death can be another cause of dictators’ demise. The first two Soviet dictators, Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, died after strokes. Mao Zedong of China died at the age of 82, after a heart attack more severe than the previous ones. Fidel Castro of Cuba was replaced by his younger brother because of his worsening health. Dictators do not seem to enjoy good health – and a happy life!

With that said, it is not easy to get rid of dictators because they do not know when to stop until their defeat or death stops their reign of terror. This fact further suggests that they are usually dumb because they think they have no choice but to fight to the death because of their insecurity, if not insanity. Dictators usually come to power amidst chaos and turmoil or violence and war, rely on terror and intimidation to maintain their power bases, instead of building democratic and rule-of-law institutions to enhance their legitimacy. Sadly, they live in fear of subversion, retribution, and assassination.

This insight further explains why any efforts to bring them to justice are likely to fail if doing so without any preponderant power to defeat them decisively. Because of their paranoia and insecurity, they usually develop the strategy of ‘preemptive strike’ against any foes (real or perceived) before any threat to their survival grows stronger. The best counter-strategy for anyone to adopt when not having the level of hard power that can overwhelm that of the dictator also would not be one based on a violent threat to him. Dictators do not like threats, and they balance against them. Economic sanctions, however smart they may be, are more likely to harm civilian populations more than they hurt dictators. Appeasement does not work either because this strategy tends to embolden dictators. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement did not work with Hitler after he had consolidated power in the 1930s, though it might have worked in the 1920s when Germany was weak following WWI.

The only viable strategy when dealing with dictators in our globalized world is one that assures their security through power-sharing arrangements or credible amnesty. Dictators believe they will lose everything if they lose power. They have no reason to trust any promise that any loss of power would still keep them safe and secure. It is worth remembering that dictators are dumb because they do not know when to stop, but they can still outsmart their opponents when their survival is under threat and can stay in power for a very long time. The dictatorship of North Korea has proved this point.

Citation: Peou, S. (2020). Why dictators are dumb but can still outsmart others. Insights on Southeast Asia. Retrieved from https://sea-insights.com/2020/12/15/why-dictators-are-dumb-but-can-still-outsmart-others/

Sorpong Peou is Full Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies. He was formerly Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Winnipeg (Manitoba), and Chair of the Advisory and Recruitment Committee for The Manitoba Chair of Global Governance Studies – a joint program between the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. His major books include Human Security Studies: Theories, Methods and Themes (World Scientific and Imperial College Press, 2014); Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific (Praeger 2010), Human Security in East Asia: Challenges for Collaborative Action, ed. (Routledge 2008), International Democracy Assistance for Peacebuilding: Cambodia and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan 2007), Intervention and Change in Cambodia: Toward Democracy (St. Martin’s Press, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Silkworms, 2001); and Conflict Neutralization in the Cambodia War: From Battlefield to Ballot-box (Oxford University Press, 1997).

This article was originally published by his personal page: http://www.sorpongpeou.com on May 04, 2020

A long-haul fight during COVID-19: A risky journey from the UK to Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Singapore)

Dear Insights on Southeast Asia

I have enjoyed reading this new blog for a while. As a contribution to the blog, I am writing to share my flight experience from the UK (London) to Southeast Asia (Cambodia) via Singapore. I hope this experience is worth sharing to readers who wish to fly from the UK or Europe Cambodia. In this journey, I will also compare how the UK or probably even the whole EU, handle travellers to contain COVID-19 at London Heathrow Airport with Southeast Asian nations (Singapore, Cambodia). After experiencing about nine months lockdown and living in a square room and coping with stress, last month, I decided to travel to Cambodia, my home country, as I see COVID-19 in the country was not much worse compared to the UK, between 16,000-19,000 cases per day. However, the recent outbreak in Cambodia has disappointed my plan, but I have to fly because I already paid for the airfare.

Almost two months ago, before flying or choosing airlines, I did some researches and asked friends who had experience of a long-haul flight (up to 15 hours in total to exclude layover). I chose Singapore Airline. There are flights via South Korea, Thailand, and Japan, but I chose Singapore Air in term of airfare, service and safety measures.

A month before my departure, I prepared 4 3M/N95 masks (1: for inflight, 1: transit, 1: another flight, and 1 when you landed in Cambodia), a transparent face shield, hand sanitiser jells, cough sweets, and diarrhoea and flu tablets. I like cough sweet the most, even I am healthy, but it is very dehydrated on 13 hours flight from London to Singapore. I took immune pills two weeks before the flight to boost my immune system. I BELIEVE THIS IS ESSENTIAL EVEN YOU DO NOT TRAVEL BY AIRE. I STRONGLY RECOMMENDED N95 Mask as in the photo. Unlike other masks, this one is much convenient because when you speak your lips will not touch the mask layers. Imagine 13 hours flight, you will smell YOUR OWN MOUTH and get sick by that.

To the Airport. Compared to public transportation: buses and underground trains, I would spend some money on a private taxi, or Uber to be safe. Travel alone is better than with unknown herds using public transpiration services. You may know that the spike of COVID cases in the UK is linked to public transportations. London underground is a crowded since they do not have proper seat arrangement, social distancing and space between travellers to avoid close contact.


At London Heathrow. I arrived at the airport about 2.5 hours before the flight. At Terminal 2, there was no standard social distancing arrangement besides queueing from the passenger drop off section to the check-in counters.  Not many cared about social distancing, 2 or 1.5 meters apart from each other, even FACE COVER (they called it that, not a mask; I FOUND FACE COVER unhelpful) is compulsory inside the terminal. At the check-in counter, I was asked to present a health certificate: COVID-19-free. I was exempted since I was travelling to my home country (I will explain that it is not helpful at all). After checking in, I went through a security check, and again there was no proper arrangement beside lining, not even 1.5 meters apart. THIS MIGHT BE THE CASE WHY THE TRANSMISSION RATE IN THE UK or EU increased sharply after first or second waves or lockdown.

Inside Heathrow’s departure terminal: Shops are opening, and as you know, BLACK FRIDAY remains, and you can still enjoy duty-free shopping. Discount everywhere. You can kill time and wander around shopping, and some of them do not respect social distancing.

Before boarding: I had temperature checked by Singapore Airline staff and was called by our row and seat number to board the flight, to avoid the crowd. Before entering the plane, each of us gets a health kit bag containing a hand sanitiser, a mask, a wipe, and a bottle of water.

In the plane: we were arranged to sit with empty seat/ space in between seats we were assign (unless you know each other you can chose to seat together). IT IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA, and I FELT SAFE instead of sitting next to an unknown person (I MET a CAMBODIAN STUDENT FROM AUSTRALIA said her flight from Brisbane to Singapore arranged seat the same mine). ONE IMPORTANT NOTE is that if you could check online and select your preferred seats would be great. I DID SELECT SEAT in advance. I would recommend those at the EXIT AREA, LAST ROW, and ROW against the laboratory seats to avoid being SURROUNDED. If you cannot do that, you might be lucky to sit next to those EU/UK citizens who have COVID-19-free certificate. I WOULD FEEL SAFE TO SIT NEARBY THESE FOREIGNERS WHO HAD TEST NEGATIVE to board the flight. Test negative for COVID-19 is a must to travel to another country that is not your home.

Layover in Singapore. It was very unfortunate that I had 8 hours of layover in Singapore. All passengers were disembarked row by row, about 3-5 rows at a time. Those who transited at Changi Airport were well directed by a guide to the transit hall. TEMPERATURE WAS TAKEN as soon as you disembark, and BEFORE ENTERING THE transit HALL. Wrist bands were given to identify us as layover passengers. There, we were not allowed to move around like in London. If you want to eat and shop, you need to order online (there is a banner instructing how to do so). Duty-free shopping need to be placed at least 8 or 12 hours in advance. I THINK THIS IS WHY SINGAPORE COULD CONTAIN COVID-19 TRANSMISSION and or imported CASES. To avoid a close contact with other passengers, I located myself somewhere at the corner of the hall.


SINGAPORE-CAMBODIA: Before boarding, we were again asked to queue about 10-20 passengers each line with at least 1 m apart. They rechecked our temperature. A number of Cambodian flocks flown (mostly) from Malaysia joined us. The guide/staff navigated and led group by group to the security check. AGAIN, We were given health kit as we board. But, UPON BOARDING I WAS DISAPPOINTED THAT THE AIRLINE (Silk Air, a regional subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) did not follow the long-haul flight standard mentioned above. All seats were occupied except three rows left empty as the flight attendant told me that they reserved for quarantine or in case if anyone gets sick they would isolate him or her there. I AM DISAPPOINTED that we were asked to stay apart during the transit but HAD TO PACK US TOGETHER in a tinny Airplane. EVEN MASKS are still compulsory, but we sit close to each other. From HERE YOU DO NOY TRUST your CAMBODIAN FELLOWS since, like me, THEY DIDN’T COVID-19-Free certificate. IT seems Singapore does not care when they send travellers out of their country. THIS MIGHT BE THE CAUSE of COVID-19 transmission and importing CASES to CAMBODIA. The Government of Cambodia should instruct incoming flights to follow space inside the plane.

FOOD dining is the most CONTAGIOUS time in this small flight. When foods and drinks were served, everyone removed masks and dug in. THIS IS a risky time, but I DID NOT EAT UNTIL the nearby passengers ate. BUT, I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO SIT NEXT TO A FOREIGNER. AS I TOLD YOU BEFORE, THEY WERE ONCE TESTED NEGATIVE up to 72 hours before boarding the flight.

Food and drink served Singapore-Phnom Penh

LANDING in PHNOM PENH. Again, DISAPPOINTED since passengers compete to get out of the plane, and the cabin crews did not advise them to disembark row by row like the long-haul flight. NO SOCIAL DISTANCING at all.

Passengers were about to disembark

IMMIGRATION CHECK and COVID-19 TESTING. I think many have written on this aspect, I should not spend more time on this. We had to fill out health status and condition and presented to the Health Officer to inspect. AGAIN, WE NEED TO line up, and there was no social distancing practice (by passengers). YOU KNOW THAT THE AIRPORT IS SMALL; it cannot follow Singapore. From there you will be given a form to fill out your choice of QUARANTINE ACCOMMODATIONs: Free and private hotel. In the form, you must include your personal info, and contact information (phone and e-mail). As I once heard about the condition of free accommodation, I CHOSE HOTEL as I will need to work during this period. AS I SAID BEFORE, it is a must now that all passengers are required to quarantine 14 days at the hotel and the free accommodation, not two days to get the test result and check out to quarantine yourself at home.


I proceeded to collect my baggage and presented the health information form to the doctors who interviewed where about I would stay after the quarantine period (part of the contact tracing).  From there, samples were taken from your mouth and noise. You will be asked to remove your face mask. Upon the samples were taken, you must wear you mask immediately as I believe it is where people were asked unmask; it can be a CONTAGIOUS area. DON’T be scared, ALL DOCTORS and OFFICERs were equipped with Personal Protection Equipment’s (PPE).

Waiting to be transferred to the hotel by a bus

Transferring to the hotel was complicated as well. AGAIN, NO SOCIAL DISTANCING AT ALL. It was confusing as not many officers could speak English well. Some foreigners joined different queues: hotel and free accommodation. It took about 2 hours to get ready on the bus to the hotel. Both foreigners and Khmer passengers were frustrated with the arrangement. I THINK IT IS TYPICAL BUSINESS AS USUAL IN THIS COUNTRY.

I will tell you more how I felt when I was transferred to the hotel. It is again a typical thing. Stay tuned!

If you have questions, please comment and I will respond.

Call for research proposals : RLS Southeast Asia

🚀RLS Southeast Asia – Hanoi Office is calling for project concept notes for the period from 2021 – 2023!!!!!

👉Each organization can submit maximum two project concept notes. Projects can be, but are not limited to conferences, policy studies, dialogues, workshops, trainings, awareness raising events, development of communication material, educational art work and advocacy activities. Projects should contribute to our three components (as in the picture) and focus on specific themes.

⏰Project duration: Project can be implemented in 1 year, 2 years or 3 years during the period from 2021 – 2023.

📈Project value: Single activity projects should not exceed 30,000 EUR /project/year Multiple activity projects should not exceed 45.000 EUR/project/year For applicants, who don’t have any experience working with RLS, we just accept 1-year project concept notes with a maximum amount of 20,000 EUR.

👉Requirements for applicantsState agencies, research institutes, academic institutions, and not-for profit organizations:• Based in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand• Have legal status for implementation of projects with above topics.

🧰Criteria for selection:

1. Relevance with our thematic focus and political background.

2. Relevant experiences and capacity of applicants.

3. Proven profile to address social and ecological issues in lower Mekong region.

4. Engagement of political actors in the project implementation.

5. Budget efficiency and effectiveness.

📩Application procedure and deadline:-Interested organizations are invited to submit concept notes in one file and pdf format (maximum 02) to Mr. Nguyen Tung (Nguyen.Tung@rosalux.org) and Ms. Hoang Tra My, RLS Project Manager (TraMy.Hoang@rosalux.org) latest by 10.01.2021.

📍Details: https://bit.ly/CallforConceptNotes2020

How Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province becomes the first Khmer Rouge controlled area?

In the 1960s, the northern province of Ratanakiri of Cambodia, predominantly inhabited by indigenous populations, became a scene of virulent armed confrontation between Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s regular army and Cambodian ultra-Maoist dissidents. The latter came first in 1965 to hide out in the forests, along the Cambodia-Vietnam border region. The ground was not virgin against the royal power, indigenous popular uprisings—already supported by the Vietminh troops broken in guerrilla warfare—had prepared the ground. The forthcoming leaders of a nation-wide terror regime (April 1975-December 1978) skilfully managed to take advantage of these local revolts, at first with the Jarai, Lao, Brao and Kachok people, by giving them a new meaning and simultaneously concealing from the populations of the province their intention to establish a totalitarian regime. Ratanakiri province became the first Khmer Rouge controlled territory in 1970.

Many have argued that a great majority of autochthonous (or indigenous) people have been complicit with the Pol Pot regime, mostly in Ratanakiri Province. This is not a Truth and is a misleading claim. In reality, indigenous people have been, like most human beings in Cambodia, not only victims of this ultra-Maoist regime, but also the first who suffered from the Khmer Rouge brutality from early 1971 onwards, more than four years before the fall of Phnom Penh. All ethnic minorities in Ratanakiri started to be threatened and defenceless, long time before the overwhelming majority of the Khmer population, with forced labour, famine, sickness, family separation, torture and mass killings. And nobody elsewhere was aware of this ongoing ethnic genocide.

Long after the civil war and once the order was restored, the indigenous populations—who were among the first victims of the Angkar (the revolutionary ultra-Maoist organization)—started to be indiscriminately associated (by the Cambodian population, some journalists and scholars) with the Khmer Rouge genocide. Such a misunderstanding is rooted in a denial of history mixed with an insidious form of ethnic xenophobia. To render memory and justice to the Cambodian indigenous populations living in the northeast, it is important today to study the impartial history of these misjudged ethnics.

These are key arguments of Frédéric Bourdier’s new book entitled “Time of war, time of revolt with the autochthonous populations of Cambodia. The emergence of the first Khmer Rouge controlled area in Ratanakiri (1967-1971), Paris, 2020, L’Harmattan, 166p (French version).

Cover photo by Michael Vickery, in the early 1960s or 1970s

This book can be bought from here

Temps de guerre, temps de révolte chez les populations autochtones du Cambodge : Première assise populaire khmère rouge à Ratanakiri (1967-1971)

Au cours des années soixante, la province septentrionale de Ratanakiri, majoritairement habitée par des populations autochtones, devint un théâtre d’affrontement acharné entre l’armée régulière du prince Norodom Sihanouk et les dissidents ultramaoïstes cambodgiens. Le terrain n’était pas vierge : contre le pouvoir royal, des soulèvements populaires, soutenus par les troupes vietminh rompues à la guérilla, avaient préparé le terrain. Les maquisards cambodgiens, futurs leaders d’un régime de terreur, surent habilement tirer parti de ces révoltes locales et leur conférer un tout autre sens, dissimulant aux populations de la province leur intention d’instaurer un régime totalitaire. C’est à Ratanakiri que s’établit, dès 1970, la première assise khmère rouge.

Bien après la guerre civile et une fois l’ordre retrouvé, les populations autochtones – qui furent parmi les premières victimes de l’Angkar (l’organisation révolutionnaire ultramaoïste) – seront associées sans discernement au génocide khmer rouge. Un tel contre-sens puise ses sources dans un déni de l’histoire mêlé à une forme insidieuse de xénophobie ethnique : cela tient de l’irresponsabilité. Pour rendre mémoire et justice aux populations autochtones du Cambodge, il importe aujourd’hui que cette histoire soit restituée. C’est ce qui est réalisé dans cet ouvrage, en suivant les trajectoires d’un adolescent des hauts-plateaux de Ratanakiri, de sa famille et de son clan.

« Ce livre offre un aperçu fascinant et révélateur du génocide cambodgien ainsi que du conflit avec le Vietnam qui l’a accompagné et l’a en partie défini. » (Ben Kiernan, préface)

Frédéric Bourdier est anthropologue à l’Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) et à l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. Il travaille depuis une vingtaine d’années en Asie du Sud-Est, principalement au Cambodge. Une grande partie de ses livres et articles traite des racines et du destin des populations autochtones, des relations nature/société et de l’anthropologie critique du développement.

The Unpredictable Way of Pandemics in Global Politics

Sorpong Peou | Ryerson University | Canada

I am not an epidemiologist or a virologist, nor am I a medical scientist of any sort, but my interest in pandemics is based on my understanding that they have emerged as a source of threat to peace and security on different levels: human, national, and international. Pandemics can indeed threaten global peace and security. From my perspective, the way of pandemic is still largely unpredictable.

This does not mean social scientists can’t predict or theorize about some of the effects of epidemics and pandemics on our world, which include the following: the Antoine Plague of 165-180, the Black Death of 1347–53, avian influenza (i.e., the bird flu, caused by a virus, such as the Spanish Flu of 1918-20 and the Swine Flu of 2009), and corona-viruses (such as SARS of 2003 and COVID-19 of 2020).

Epidemics and pandemics are killers. The Antoine Plague (165-180 AD) killed a third of the Roman Empire’s population. The Plague of Justinian (541 AD), which spread across Asia, North Africa, Arabia and Europe, killed between 25 and 50 million people. The Black Death killed approximately 25 million people, almost one-third of Europe’s population. The 1918-1920 Spanish Flu infected 500 million people, about one-third of the world’s population, and killed at least 50 million people. The Swine Flu of 2009 killed between 151,000 and 575,000 people worldwide. Corona-viruses are also killers. The SARS pandemic reportedly infected 8,098 and left 774 people dead, but the COVID-19 has been more devastating: having infected close to 2 million people in a matter of several months and left more than 100,000 dead.

On one level, we can say that pandemics pose a threat to human security: they kill people, but we don’t really know when exactly and from where the next one will strike. So far, Asia has been a region where some big pandemics originated: the Black Death (China and Inner Asia), avian influenza (i.e., the 1957-58 Asian Flu, the 1968-69 Hong Kong Flu, and the 1997 Bird Flu). The last two corona-viruses also broke out in Asia: SARS (China) and COVID-19 (China). But pandemics also have a history of originating in other regions: the Spanish Flu originated in Spain and the 2009 Swine Flu in Mexico. The first ever-recorded pandemic broke out in Athens, an ancient Greek state (known as the Plague of Athens around 430-426 B). The Antoine Plague swept through the Roman Empire. The Plague of Justinian may have started in Egypt. Thus, where the next pandemic will strike is hard to know.

The negative effects of COVID-19 on human security can be be identified when social-economic consequences are further assessed. According to ILO Director-General Guy Ryder who spoke early in April 2020, the economic effects of this pandemic could exceed the global financial crisis in 2008 and could result in a loss of closer to 200 million jobs within the next several months.

On another level, epidemics and pandemics can also threaten national and international security in different ways. Firstly, they may have devastating consequences for states and societies in that they can produce domestic instability, civil war, or even civil-military conflict. Price-Smith (2002), for instance, puts it this way, “the potential for intra-elite violence is increasingly probable and may carry grave political consequences, such as coups, the collapse of government, and planned genocides.”

Secondly, both epidemics and pandemics may also result in disputes between or among states because of potential disagreement over appropriate policy responses. For instance, this new round of China-U.S. tension is related to COVID-19, and some observers think that the pandemic has the potential to cause a military confrontation or even a Cold War between the two world powers.

Thirdly, they may alter the balance of power between competitive states within the international security system and lead to conflict. The diminished size of a population may provide a greater incentive for some state or a social group unaffected by a pandemic to attempt military conquest. The Antoine Plague (165-180 AD), for instance, swept through the Roman Empire and devastated its armies. A recent example of how a pandemic might affect the balance of power is when COVID-19 infected more than 580 sailors of a 4,865-person crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a US aircraft carrier deployed to the Pacific Ocean and docked on March 27. Another recent development was when some 50 crew members aboard Charles de Gaulle (France’s only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier) were positive.

Fourthly, epidemics and pandemics may also alter the outcome of international conflict. For instance, Sparta defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431 BC – 404 BC), not only because of Sparta’s military might but also because of an epidemic that broke out in Athens around around 430 B.C. and killed between one-third and two-thirds of the Athenian population.

While history can help shed some light on the dangerous effects of pandemics in global politics, it’s important to bear in mind that they remain unpredictable. They are killers for sure and may or may not cause domestic instability and violent conflict when states and societies suffer from economic, financial, and political crises, but a world war or a Cold War is very unlikely nor is it inevitable.

Much still depends on what states and their peoples choose to do. The threat of a great pandemic like COVID-19 may bring them together. Sometimes there is nothing more unifying a popularized world than a common foe, but a dangerous pandemic may also drive them apart as some evidence may suggest, especially when state leaders blame each other or when some of them exploit this global threat to advance their own geo-strategic interests and pursue their own political ambitions.

This is a possible thesis topic! Share your thoughts with me if you think otherwise. I will share more of my arguments on this topic in my book to be published someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Sorpong Peou is Full Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies. He was formerly Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Winnipeg (Manitoba), and Chair of the Advisory and Recruitment Committee for The Manitoba Chair of Global Governance Studies – a joint program between the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. His major books include Human Security Studies: Theories, Methods and Themes (World Scientific and Imperial College Press, 2014); Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific (Praeger 2010), Human Security in East Asia: Challenges for Collaborative Action, ed. (Routledge 2008), International Democracy Assistance for Peacebuilding: Cambodia and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan 2007), Intervention and Change in Cambodia: Toward Democracy (St. Martin’s Press, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Silkworms, 2001); and Conflict Neutralization in the Cambodia War: From Battlefield to Ballot-box (Oxford University Press, 1997).

This article was originally published by his personal page: http://www.sorpongpeou.com on April 13, 2020