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Research Report

Trying to follow the money: Possibilities and limits of investor transparency in Southeast Asia’s rush for “available” land

Michael B. Dwyer
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2015
Pages: 72
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-4)

    Since late 2008, researchers have been interrogating a raft of often conflicting evidence about growing transnational access to arable land. The labels mobilized to describe the phenomenon – rising global interest in farmland (Deininger and Byerlee 2011), a new global land grab (Grain 2008), even the denationalization of state territory (Sassen 2013) – testify to the high stakes and normative debates involved. But they also highlight the uncertainty. The defining feature of the new global land rush, indeed, is arguably the uneasy tension between the growing conviction that something new, expansive and dangerous is at work within the global networks...

  2. (pp. 5-16)

    The fall of the Suharto regime in 1998 ended the system of tightly controlled forest concessions that had formed the backbone of economic development since the late 1960s. A decentralized system of land allocation has emerged in its place, to significant effects. In contrast to the New Order’s heavy-handed simplification of the forest as “an uninhabited dipterocarp stand” (Tsing 2005, 16), land allocation during the Reformasi period has been a more complex and negotiated process. The shift, however, has not been entirely democratic: “special interests” have persisted, with corruption, collusion and nepotism – so strongly established that they have their...

  3. (pp. 17-29)

    Some of the most intense debates about Southeast Asia’s current development trajectory center on a region that, since 1999 has been referred to officially as the CLV Development Triangle (Nguyen 2012). Comprising the tri-border region where Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (CLV) meet, the area has long been seen as remote, poor and ethnically diverse. Since the end of the Indochina Wars, this region has been targeted – first from the Vietnamese side of the border, and more recently on the Cambodian and Lao sides as well – as a priority development area. Given its substantial resource wealth (forests, minerals, rivers...

  4. (pp. 30-37)

    The borderlands of Myanmar, Laos, China and Thailand have seen a rapid rise in development efforts over the last two decades. Spanning both sides of the long frontier of China’s Yunnan province, their trade corridors have historically connected East Asia to the Indian Ocean and beyond, circumventing the long and dangerous sea route from coastal China westward. But in the twentieth century, the volatile mix of decolonization and Cold War conflict hit mainland Southeast Asia’s borderlands especially hard. Geopolitical tensions, ethno-nationalist independence movements-turned-insurgencies, and the explosion of opium from a small-scale medicinal and regional tribute crop into a major global...

  5. (pp. 38-43)

    One of the paradoxes of economic development over the last few decades is that as market-based approaches have proliferated, regulatory opportunities have grown with them rather than shrunk (Walker 1999; Graeber 2015). While strong regulatory approaches have had a long pedigree in more authoritarian states, the financial crisis of 2008 and the persistent shortcomings of solely market-based regulation have brought questions of regulation (back) to the fore of debates about environment and development (Nyíri 2009; Ban and Blyth 2013). Karsenty et al.’s call for “regulation, law enforcement and strong political decisions” (quoted above) exemplifies this trend, as do calls for...