Governing Civil Society in Cambodia: ‘Societal Incorporation’ in INGO/NGO Partnerships with the State

Dr Melissa Curley1

1University Of Queensland, , Australia

This paper draws upon the ‘Modes of Participation’ framework developed by Rodan (2018) as a means to analyse interactions between the Cambodia state, civil society actors, INGO/NGOs, and their policy and advocacy agendas between 2013-2019. By applying this framework, I map new ways that civil society actors function within and between the Cambodia state’s policy to simultaneously constrain and harness civil society. These may be through cooperative and/or coercive mechanisms, and be located in different modes and scales of policy implementation. While scholars have explored Cambodia’s slide into authoritarian rule, limited analysis has been given to internal dynamics impacting contestations between state and civil society actors, or the agential capacity of civil society actors. Existing approaches to state-civil society relations in the democratization paradigm pay limited attention to the strategies that the state undertakes to deliver on governance outcomes and manage complex policy challenges, without however the commitment to upholding democratic ideals and rights. Case examples are drawn from the governance and management of policy and development problems including: policy and partnership strategies on institutional care for children, regulation of ‘fake orphanages’, ‘orphanage tourism’ and child trafficking; and policies and legal approaches to preventing violence against women and children, including child sexual exploitation. I suggest the MOP framework provides a new innovative lens to analyze the state’s dual strategies of constraint and harnessing of civil society actors.


Dr. Melissa Curley is Senior Lecturer in International Relations in the School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland. Her research & teaching interests include Southeast Asian politics & law, migration and security, Cambodian politics, and non-traditional security in East Asia. She has published on these topics across International Relations, Political Science and Law, including in: Review of International Studies, Journal of Law and Society, Asian Studies Review & Bond Law Review. She is currently working on a book manuscript on Governing Civil Society in Cambodia.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Visit Victoria

© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd