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Published in: Journal of Contemporary Asia (1996) Vol.26, issue 3, pp366-79.


The paper outlines changes in agricultural production and rural policies in Cambodia since 1953, when the country gained independence from France, and considers whether current rural conditions are different from those that existed during the 1960s, prior to the Khmer Rouge insurgencies. Economic and political reforms begun in 1989 by the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party government have not yet created a sound economy and acceptable living conditions for the majority of Cambodians. About 85 percent to 90 percent of Cambodia's population continues to live in rural areas, mostly as household cultivators, but that food security for peasants is not guaranteed. Persistent agricultural problems might lead to distinct socioeconomic polarization between an increasingly impoverished peasantry and an upwardly-mobile tourism and service-based urban sector supported by the majority of foreign development aid.

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