Aid Effectiveness and Corruption in Cambodia

Author: Bunphoeun Un

Un, Bunphoeun, 2017 Aid Effectiveness and Corruption in Cambodia, Flinders University, School of History and International Relations

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


This thesis reports on desk-based research into the connections between foreign aid and corruption in Cambodia. The aim is to investigate the implications of foreign aid and corruption in developing countries, especially in countries with decades of civil war, such as Cambodia. The thesis provides a literature review related to foreign aid and corruption, showing that aid is considered significant for development, particularly in poor and developing countries, and that corruption hinders aid effectiveness.

Although foreign aid is vital for poverty reduction and promoting good governance as well as democracy, some scholars argue that it creates opportunities for corruption. Furthermore, different types of aid may have different outcomes. Bilateral aid, for example, usually aims to build diplomatic relations and business cooperation, but is often given with conditions attached and may disadvantage the recipient country. Multilateral foreign aid, on the other hand, generally has a more positive impact on poverty reduction, and fewer conditions, because it is given by groups of countries through financial institutions and private development agencies. It generally gives more benefits directly to local people and reduces corruption.

Cambodia has been characterised as the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, where government officials are involved in manipulating or dominating policy formulation and creating loopholes for corruption to occur. Corruption is an obstacle to development and impairs Cambodia’s reputation, as corrupt officials undermine the rule of law by colluding with corrupt business actors for personal gain. This thesis investigates the routes of corruption which have negatively impacted sustainable development and democracy in Cambodia and why this major social issue has not been effectively addressed. Corruption in the forestry sector, in particular, occurs systemically as it operates through firm networks involving various government sectors. This accelerates illegal logging and violence, and undermines aid effectiveness. Economic Land Concessions are a major cause of deforestation in Cambodia and commonly have an adverse impact on both forest conservation and local people’s livelihood. Democratic development and living conditions in Cambodia can only take place if corruption is reduced, and if active public participation in the development process is allowed. This will only happen if the government has the political will to eliminate corruption through implementation of relevant laws and thus ensure aid effectiveness.

Keywords: Corruption, Foreign aid, Cambodia

Subject: International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: School of History and International Relations
Supervisor: Professor Susanne Check