Mediating difference ? : NGOs' role in the transitional justice process in Cambodia

Miyahira, Mariko
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2011]
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As this brief survey of literature suggests, in order to provide an answer to the question concerning the diffusion process of the TJ norms, looking into the role of Cambodian NGOs in the ECCC process will give important insights as to how the local intermediary actors approach the potential gap between international TJ norms and domestic counterparts of those concepts. One point that needs attention in studying the diffusion process of the TJ norms is the two levels of analysis it requires: institutional level and people's understandings of the norms. While the establishment and functioning of TJ institutions may suggest that the TJ norms successfully spread to a particular locality of concern, it may not necessarily mean that the understandings of the TJ norms among the local people ensued. I argue that the Cambodian NGOs have played a significant role for the diffusion of TJ norms at the national, institutional level with their contribution to the ECCC process as agents of the ECCC, as the functioning of the ECCC in Cambodian context indicates. However, analysis at the level of the people's understandings presents a more nuanced picture. In addition to fulfilling indispensable tasks within the ECCC process, the NGOs also show potential autonomy. Motivated to join the process for their belief in the TJ norms and the opportunities they get from their participation, the NGOs attempt to promote the participation of the Cambodian people by acting as intermediaries that translate the international norms to make it resonate with Cambodian cultural and religious context. Despite their crucial role in the ECCC process as the implementer of various essential tasks for the working of the ECCC, they are nevertheless local context-bound agents that partly contribute to the dysfunctions, or pathologies, of the TJ institution. It is largely because of the role of the NGOs as agents, which requires them to work within the parameter of justice--what justice means and how it is achieved--that the ECCC defines. Similarly, this thesis also identifies the aid-dependent nature and contentious relationship with the Cambodian government as other factors that condition the NGOs. Consequently, due to such constraints, examination of the role of NGOs in the ECCC process identifies various dilemmas and tensions manifested in different ways. The arguments presented in this thesis differ from the common, somewhat idealistic and take-it-for-granted treatment of the civil society participation that the TJ literature typically takes. Instead, this study points to the need for the careful examination of the local context that conditions the NGOs. I also intend to demonstrate that paying due attention to the power of norms and its embodiment as an institution facilitates our understanding of the workings and challenges of the TJ institutions, and its implications for the norms diffusion on the ground. As for implications for norms diffusion process, the ECCC process in Cambodia suggests the significant impact top-down nature of the institutions have on the process. In specific, due to the expert authority TJ institutions have, the possibility of placing local norms in an unequal relationship relative to international norms needs to be taken seriously. As for implications for the TJ, the Cambodian case suggests that the establishment of TJ institutions does not automatically guarantee that they function well at different contexts where they are implemented. To a significant degree, the case shows the crucial role of the agents which makes the process work through their fulfillment of indispensable tasks.
M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
traditional justices
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Theses for the degree of Master of Arts (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Political Science.
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