Foreign Policy: Asia after the liberal international order

July 20, 2018

Foreign Policy: Asia after the liberal international order

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by Amitav Acharya, American University, Washington DC

With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the West suddenly woke up with an acute anxiety about the fate of the US-led liberal international order. Until then, the liberal establishment in the United States had assumed that Hillary Clinton would succeed Barack Obama as President and ensure continuity in the liberal order. They ignored or dismissed warnings about the order’s crisis and decline. The belief in the resilience of the liberal order changed dramatically on 6 November 2016.

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 What is the liberal order? It is an international system created and managed by the United States after World War II to promote capitalism and democracy through building alliances and multilateral institutions. Its supporters portray the liberal order as an open, rules-based and multilateral system that operates through consent rather than coercion.

This is a fundamentally self-serving and distorted view. In reality, the liberal order is a club of the West. To other countries, its benefits—such as market access, aid and investment, and the provision of a security umbrella—were offered selectively and conditionally. Leading nations of the developing world, including China and India, were either outside of the system or connected at the margins. Some developing countries were summarily excluded.

The order often operated more through coercion than consent. It was hardly ‘orderly’ for the Third World, where local conflicts were magnified by capricious great power intervention, including by the United States and its Western allies.

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China’s Xi Jinping’s is Asia’s Big Brother

Trump’s rise proves that the challenge to the liberal order is as much from within the United States as from outside. Trump is not the cause of the crisis of the liberal order, but rather its consequence. The liberal order had begun to fray and fragment well before the Trump presidency due to irreversible structural changes in the global economy, especially the rise of China and other non-Western powers. Growth in world trade had slowed and the World Trade Organization had been moribund for some time. A sizable section of the US electorate was already disillusioned with free markets and free trade. While Trump was able to stoke and exploit these sentiments, their origins predate his political rise.

Trump’s policies are pushing the liberal order closer to the precipice. He is severely weakening the US commitment to free trade and multilateralism, and his elevation to US Pesidency is encouraging populist and authoritarian rulers around the world. Trump shows more interest in engaging Putin and  North Korea’s Kim than Merkel and May.

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Trump is all over Moon

Asia was a grey zone of the liberal order for much of the post-World War II period. Some countries of the region, especially the so-called ‘East Asian tigers’, benefited from export-led growth strategies and access to the US market that the liberal order facilitated. But East Asian capitalism was mediated by the strong hand of the state. Democracy in the region was scarce and illiberal, marked by one-party rule, sham elections and scant provision of civil liberties.

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Trump grimaces through ASEAN handshake in Manila, Philippines, this may be the most awkward presidential handshake ever. The US President does not take ASEAN seriously. He has deliberately discouraged the development of regional multilateral institutions in Asia in favour of a hub-and-spoke system of bilateral alliances. 

The United States discouraged the development of regional multilateral institutions in Asia in favour of a hub-and-spoke system of bilateral alliances. ASEAN—the most successful regional multilateral institution in Asia—was established with no help from the US. It came about despite the liberal order, rather than because of it.

 Trump’s effect on the liberal order might not be known for some time. At this point, we do not know how long his Presidency might last, whether he will face impeachment or seek re-election—and if he does, whether he would win a second term.

His approach to foreign policy is so inconsistent (such as his reversals on the Trans-Pacific Partnership), that one must exercise extreme caution in making any predictions about how his Presidency might eventually affect the world order.

The vagaries of the Trump Presidency notwithstanding, the liberal order is facing an existential challenge. Elements of the liberal order will survive but it will not enjoy the dominance it once claimed for itself. The era of liberal hegemony is past. The rise of the rest is real.

Asia has come a long way since the Cold War. China and India, the region’s leading powers, have embraced economic openness. There is now a range of multilateral institutions in the region, centered around ASEAN. But the great powers of Asia will not be the saviors of the liberal order, as some hope.

While China has pledged to support the liberal order, this is likely only in reference to some of its economic and institutional aspects, especially the flow of trade and investment. China will not support the political foundations of the liberal order, such as democracy and human rights. Even in the economic arena, China’s policies—such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative—will alter global trade, investment and development patterns even if they are only partially successful. In the longer term, they will create a Chinese-led international order over Eurasia and beyond.

Instead of helping the West to resurrect the liberal order, Asia will lead the transition to a different type of world order. The remnants of the liberal order will have to come to terms with a Chinese-led order and other regional orders around the world in what I call a decentered and post-hegemonic ‘multiplex world’.

Such a world will not be free of conflict. But conflict will be tempered by both older and newer forms of interdependence and institutions across regional orders, including those responding to shared transnational challenges such as climate change, pandemics and terrorism. This outlook is more plausible than the doomsday scenarios of disarray and collapse that many liberal pundits in the West have imagined as a result of the end of the US-led order. They were wrong before and are likely to be wrong again.

Amitav Acharya is Distinguished Professor of International Relations, American University, Washington, DC. This article is based on ideas from his book, The End of American World Order, 2nd edition, Polity Press, 2018. Follow him on Twitter: @AmitavAcharya.

This article appeared in the most recent edition of East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Trade wars and Asia’.

Economic Pragmatism and Regional Economic Integration: The Case of Cambodia

July 12, 2018

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Economic Pragmatism and Regional Economic Integration: The Case of Cambodia

by Chheang Vannarith

Chheang Vannarith, Visiting Fellow, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, explains that “International economic cooperation and regional integration are key principles of Cambodia’s foreign policy.”

Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 429

Cambodia’s foreign policy strategy has been chiefly shaped and driven by “economic pragmatism,” meaning the alignment of foreign policy with economic development interests. The Cambodian government’s two main approaches to regional economic integration are (1) transforming the international environment into a source of national development and (2) diversifying strategic partnerships based on the calculation of economic interests. International economic cooperation and regional integration are key principles of Cambodia’s foreign policy, which emphasizes shared development and win-win cooperation.

As a less developed country in the region, Cambodia has a strong interest in promoting and realizing a more inclusive, fair, and just process of regional community-building that narrows the development gap and implements people-centered regional cooperation. Linking regional integration with national economic policies is critical to sustaining dynamic economic development.  Key tasks include improving regulatory harmonization and harnessing and synergizing various regional integration initiatives.  It is particularly important to link ASEAN community blueprints with sub-regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program and Mekong-Lancang Mekong Cooperation (MLC).

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Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen–Father of Cambodia’s Socio-Economic Development

The Cambodian government perceives regional integration as a means to further advance its national development interests. ASEAN, GMS and MLC are the main gateways for Cambodia to reach out to the region and beyond. The ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 aims to achieve five goals: (1) an integrated and cohesive economy; (2) a competitive, innovative and dynamic ASEAN; (3) enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation; (4) a resilient, people-oriented, and people-centered ASEAN; and (5) a global ASEAN. GMS operates under the principles of non-interference, consultation and consensus, mutual interest and equality, win-win cooperation, shared development, and common destiny. GMS gives emphasis to practical or functional cooperation, aiming at achieving concrete results in poverty reduction. MLC promotes regional connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, trade and investment facilitation, customs and quality inspection, financial cooperation, water resource management, agriculture, forestry, environmental protection, and poverty reduction.

In the Rectangular Strategy Phase III, issued in 2013, a five-year strategic development plan, the Cambodian government set out a vision that states, “by the end of the first half of the 21st century, Cambodia is to reclaim full ownership of its own destiny, while becoming a real partner in regional and global affairs.” It further states that Cambodia is now “actively integrating itself into the regional and global architecture, and playing a dynamic role in all regional and global affairs on equal footing and with equal rights as other nations.”

The Cambodian government stresses several key benefits of regional integration, including regional peace and stability, the development of both hard and soft infrastructure, energy and digital connectivity, free and effective movement of trade and investment, human capital development, the expansion of regional production bases and networks, and stronger regional cooperation and coordination in agricultural development. Strengthening regional cooperation — especially in the Mekong region in rice production and trade facilitation — would contribute to improving farmers’ standard of living. Creating an association of rice-exporting countries will strengthen the global position of the Mekong countries.

Although there have been remarkable achievements over the last two decades in forging regional cooperation, integration, and connectivity, there are several challenges that Cambodia needs to overcome. Those challenges include socio-economic inequality within the country and the region, weak institutions and governance, and the lack of national capacity in implementing regional projects. Income disparity within the regions and localities contributes to political instability, trans-boundary crimes, illegal labor migration, and human trafficking.

Institution-building based on good governance remains a key challenge to the effective implementation of regional policies. The national capacity of each member country of the GMS in transforming and integrating its regional development agenda into a national development action plan is limited. The lack of resources in realizing regional development projects requires more investment and participation from the private sector.

Local government plays a significant role in regional cooperation and integration. Recognizing the role of local government in socio-economic development, in 2008 the government adopted two Organic Laws and established a National Committee for the Democratic Development of Subnational Administrations. These measures are aimed at decentralizing power and creating a sub-national governance system. Delegating power and resources to local governments at the commune, district and provincial levels not only contributes to national development but also connects governments with neighboring countries, especially in the border areas.  For instance, the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle was formed in 2002 to link 13 border provinces of the three countries.

A major challenge is that both the central government and local governments in Cambodia lack sufficient institutional capacity and resources to effectively implement the country’s regional cooperation and integration agenda which includes the budget infrastructure connectivity projects. It is therefore necessary to forge a closer partnership between the public and private sectors, especially in infrastructure development and connectivity.  Decentralization, delegating more authority to local governments, can facilitate public-private partnerships and stimulate national public administrative reform. Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance crafted a policy paper on public-private partnership for public investment project management, 2016-2020, which aims to “create an enabling environment for promoting the participation of the private sector and financial institutions in public investments.”

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia

To enhance Cambodia’s competitiveness, and thereby to improve the depth and quality of its participation in regional economic integration, Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the GMS Business Summit in Hanoi in March 2018 that it was necessary to strengthen efforts in regional economic integration and connectivity through prioritized areas of finance, economy, e-commerce and cross-border trade.

The seize the opportunities arising from fourth industrial revolution and digital integration in ASEAN the Cambodian government is focusing on four pillars.  According to a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen at the 2018 Cambodia Outlook Conference in Phnom Penh, these are:

(1) Developing a skilled workforce by emphasizing education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and technical and vocational training, supporting linkages between education and enterprises, and creating a national accreditation system.

(2) Promoting a research and development network, a high-quality physical infrastructure, and a public-private partnership mechanism to support the establishment of research and development, the facilitation of information sharing and technology transfer, and the penetration of foreign markets.

(3) Further strengthening institutional, policy and regulatory frameworks by bolstering the implementation of intellectual property law, related regulations, and other regulatory frameworks in order to encourage and support entrepreneurs and scientists to innovate and sell their technology products and services.

(4) Inspiring public participation in the science and technology sector, promoting public awareness of the importance of STEM, and nurturing the talents of its population.

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Young and Better Educated Cambodians

As a small and open economy, Cambodia has taken a proactive approach in promoting regional integration based on the principle of win-win cooperation.  The government has taken measures to diversify the sources of growth by investing in knowledge-based economy and strengthen public-private partnerships. However, the lack of institutional capacity at both national and local levels remains a key constraint.

Foreign Affairs: Time for East Asia

July 9, 2018

Time for East Asia

By Bunn Nagara@www,


AS an indication of how out of touch some international pundits of Asia are, they still call North-East Asia (China, Japan and Korea) “East Asia.”

East Asia as a region comprises the sub-regions of North-East Asia and South-East Asia, the latter being the countries of ASEAN and Timor-Leste.

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The ASEAN region developed steadily with peace and prosperity as its watchwords. It became known as a region consistently posting some of the highest growth rates in the world.

Yet ASEAN and its member countries were severely constrained by a lack of economic weight and global reach.

ASEAN’s diplomatic clout is fine, but South-East Asia as a region falls short of economic heft in a rapidly globalising world. Nonetheless, the forces of globalisation themselves would take care of that with growing economic integration within East Asia.

North-East Asia included two of the world’s three largest economies, so as a region it had no problems of limited reach or heft. Despite global constraints, China on the whole continued to grow.

As the economies of North-East Asia and South-East Asia grew more integrated, growth in East Asia as a whole would soon reach an altogether different plane.

Studies generally find intra-regional trade surpassing foreign direct investment (FDI). A 2009 study found that tariff reductions as well as closer monetary cooperation among East Asian countries made sense.

A report by the Asian Development Bank Institute last year acknowledged the impressive growth of East Asia’s intra-regional trade ratio over the past 55 years.

It noted how trade had become “more functionally linked to international production networks and supply chains” as well as FDI in the region. This is indicative of East Asia’s deepening regionalisation. Typically, after Japan’s export of capital to South-East Asia in the 1970s and 1980s, China took up the slack as Japan’s economy leveled off from the early 1990s.

In 1990, ISIS Malaysia and Prime Minister Tun (then Datuk Seri) Dr. Mahathir Mohamad worked on a proposal for an East Asia Economic Grouping (EAEG). It was time for East Asia to come into its own.

When Chinese Premier Li Peng visited Kuala Lumpur in December 1990, Dr Mahathir proposed the EAEG to him. Li Peng accepted and supported it.

The idea had not been discussed within ASEAN before. Indonesia, the biggest country and economy regarding itself the region’s “big brother,” felt miffed that it had not been consulted about the plan.

Singapore’s position, traditionally more aligned to a US that was not “included” in the East Asia proposal, was slightly more nuanced. Lee Kuan Yew, upon becoming Senior Minister just the month before – and on the cusp of the Cold War’s demise – still preferred an economic universe defined by the West.

At the time this was the European community and the Uruguay Round as an outgrowth of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

It was still three years before the European Union (EU), and four years before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Generally the world was still beholden to Western economic paradigms and game plans. The EAEG was thus seen as the work of some upstart Asians, in turns brash and occasionally recalcitrant.

Most of the six ASEAN countries, like South Korea, accepted the EAEG even as they tried to learn more about it. But it was still at best tentative.

The EAEG’s critics, however, proved more vocal. US President G.H.W Bush and Secretary of State James Baker wanted to crash the regional party by becoming a member also, or else would see the idea crash.

The Uruguay Round was then seen to be quite rudderless, and APEC, itself formed just one year before, appeared fumbling in the doldrums.

The EAEG, misperceived as an “alternative”, would be thinking and acting outside the box. An energised Asia owing nothing to Western patronage was far too much for an Occidental-conceived world order to contemplate, much less accept.

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Prime Minister Hun Sen and China’s President Xi Jinping

Malaysia tried to soothe anxieties about the EAEG by emphasising its soft regionalism. It was to be only “a loose, consultative” grouping and no more.

Why should a booming, rapidly integrating East Asia be deprived of a regional economic identity, when Europe and North America could develop their own?

Unfortunately the EAEG’s public relations campaign proved too little too late. The idea, albeit now conceived as an ASEAN project, lacked traction and ground to a halt.

Singapore saw its merits and tried a different tack. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong proposed an East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) within APEC, allaying fears of an insecure US that this would remain within the ambit of a US-dominated APEC.

Several political speeches and conference papers later, the EAEC idea also failed to germinate. A Bill Clinton Presidency was lukewarm-to-cool to the idea, still without the encouragement Japan needed for a nod.

A flourishing East Asia would be left without a regional organisation of its own, again.

In 1997 the devastating Asian economic and financial crisis struck, hitting South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia particularly badly. If the EAEG had been in place by then, greater regional cooperation and coordination would have helped cushion the shocks.

Suddenly, South Korea took the initiative to push East Asia into forming a regional identity: ASEAN Plus Three (APT). This grouping would consist of the same EAEG countries.

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Indo- Pacific Partnership –An Alternative to China’s One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI)

Japan this time was more accommodating, and the APT was born.

For decades, “the West” led by the US was identified with open markets and free trade. But now a Trump Presidency deemed protectionist, even isolationist, is hauling up the drawbridge and raising the barricades with tariffs and other restrictive measures.

These are aimed at allies and rivals alike, whether in Europe or Asia. Equivalent countermeasures have been launched, and the trade-restraining spiral winds on.

China, by now identified globally as a champion of open markets and free trade, has called on Europe to form a common front. Strategic competitors are making for strange trade bedfellows and vice-versa.

Dr Mahathir was on his annual visit to Tokyo last month for the Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia. He duly revisited the idea of an East Asian economic identity and community.

For emphasis, he added that he preferred this to a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership that the US has now rejected. How would an EAEG now play in today’s Japan and East Asia? More to the point, how would it play in Washington? The answer may still determine its prospects in Tokyo and East Asia as a whole.

It is possible that the US has become too tied to the idea of battling trade skirmishes, if not outright trade wars, with any presumed adversary to have time to frown on an EAEG.

Dr Mahathir has noted how this is the time for such a regional grouping, since we still need it and particularly when the US is helping to justify it. It is also conceivable that Japan today is more open to the EAEG, just like with the APT post-1997.

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America First Fallacy– In fact it is US retreat from global engagement


The more the rhetoric of a US-China trade war rages, the more likely East Asia can finally develop a regional economic identity of its own.

Even a US-EU trade conflict will do. East Asia should not be too choosy about its benefactors.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

Bunn Nagara

The University of Cambodia Funding Campaign 2018-2023

July 3, 2018campaignThe University of Cambodia Funding Campaign 2018-2023


All my friends around the world. I urge you to participate in UC Cambodia fund raising campaign. Give generously and help us provide quality education for young Cambodians. Those who donate USD20,000 and above will have their names or their institutions engraved on a special bronze plaque which will be displayed in the University foyer. Please write to me at and I shall be pleased to provide more details–Din Merican



The Justice Facade: Trials of Transition in Cambodia

July 3, 2018

Book Review:

The Justice Facade: Trials of Transition in Cambodia

Alexander Laban Hinton (Oxford University Press, 2018)

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Since 2006, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) have prosecuted international crimes committed between 17 April 1975 and 7 January 1979. In those years of Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge regime caused perhaps a quarter of Cambodia’s population to die through starvation, forced labour, torture and killings. An innovative “hybrid” tribunal with both Cambodian and international staff and procedures, the ECCC represents the key transformational mechanism to secure justice for these atrocities, leading Cambodia from its violent past toward a prosperous, rule-of-law-abiding democratic future.

Or so the story goes.

“The Justice Facade extends well beyond a simplistic condemnation of the ECCC as a neo-colonial artifice, by identifying the multiple unexpected and creative initiatives that transitional justice processes may stimulate (“combust”)”…Emma Palmer

Alexander Laban Hinton holds up a mirror to this aspiration for “justice” and invites the reader to jump through, and find not one, but innumerable reflections of what transitional justice means—for different people, and in different times and spaces. He counters the idea that international crimes tribunals deliver a “better future” through prosecuting crimes, leading from a time and place of violence and authoritarianism toward reconciliation and stability, delivered by a liberal democratic state. Instead, he calls this idea of transitional justice “imaginary”, a “facade” that leaves out crucial matters—including the impact of power, geopolitics, and individual experiences.

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Drawing on critical transitional justice scholarship and anthropological expertise derived from extensive research in Cambodia over many years, Hinton reveals what legal justice masks: a complex, turbulent, “dark world” of multiple possibilities. Here, there is not just one point to transitional justice, but the potential for numerous, shifting perceptions and translations. Rather than a single “justice cascade” from point A to point B, there are—to use the analogy developed throughout the book—dynamic ‘”ecosystems” filled with eddies, whirlpools, turbulence, counter-current, still spots, and vortices’ (p24).

“The Justice Facade is also compelling reading, with Hinton’s attention toward lived experience offering a richly emotive and personalised account of the dynamic impact of the Democratic Kampuchea period.”

If all of this complexity seems, well, complex, the structure of the book helps to navigate these waters. (Even if the idea is not to get to one particular place, but to appreciate the ever-changing nature and effects of transitional justice initiatives.) A preface describes the plot of a booklet used by a Cambodian NGO to explain the ECCC to Cambodians. Using a comic strip format, the booklet describes how “Uncle Yan”, who seems traumatised by his experiences during Democratic Kampuchea, comes to learn about the ECCC and participate in its proceedings, thereby finding peace. This, he imagines, involves a prosperous Cambodia—as depicted by electricity and smoking factory stacks in the distance. This story is returned to throughout the book to illustrate the typical A-to-B depiction of the aims and outcomes of transitional justice, as well as how that message has been translated in the Cambodian context.

The book’s introduction then helpfully explains the numerous complicated terms adopted throughout the book. These include the temporal and spatial aspects of the “imaginary”, the “point” and “justice facade”, and ideas such as “universalism”, “globalism” and “localization”. There is also a proposal for what might still be productive about this “assemblage” of ideas concerning transitional justice: the potential that new possibilities might emerge when actors engage with transitional justice concepts and institutions. Hinton’s suggestion that encounters between different perspectives can create unexpected consequences is inspired by Anna Tsing’s concept of friction, but Hinton terms it “combustion”. This sounds like a more enthusiastic term, but is supposed to indicate that contacts with transitional justice can also “smolder, fizzle, or fail to ignite” (p28). In the introduction Hinton also explains his “discursively-informed” phenomenological approach, which (loosely) involves being aware of how discourse and power mediate lived experiences and contexts. Subsequent chapters then elaborate upon aspects of the transitional justice imaginary by analysing past NGO activities and documents, individual experiences before, during and following Democratic Kampuchea, and outreach processes associated with the ECCC’s operations.

For instance, Chapter 1 considers the effects of the ECCC’s narrow jurisdiction over a small window of time (the several years of Democratic Kampuchea). This both diminishes events prior to and subsequent to the regime—and international responsibility for those events—but also produces a narrative in which a backward, authoritarian, violent past will be transformed in a progressive manner toward a liberal future. That narrative is not only factually highly questionable in Cambodia, but also leaves out important parts of many other stories, which the book then reveals.

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The remaining chapters detail the individual experiences of ECCC and NGO outreach workers and “civil parties” (victims who participate in the ECCC trials). These not only make fascinating reading, but demonstrate that many aspects of life before and after Democratic Kampuchea do not fit standard understandings of transitional justice. These include the significance of religion (particularly Buddhist teachings and traditional spiritual beliefs and practices), family and social relationships, living and studying outside Cambodia, and the various ways that language can be translated. Rather than simply providing material to secure prosecutions and a “transition”, these aspects can be central to individual understandings of justice, even if they appear removed from the judicial process. Hinton demonstrates how hints of these undercurrents emerged during the ECCC trials. Often these may have gone unnoticed—perhaps evident only in an awkwardly translated Cambodian phrase or Buddhist notion—while at other times the ruptures were more obvious, as when civil parties publicly lambasted the ECCC in the media.

They all, Hinton argues, demonstrate several features of the transitional justice facade. First, the idea that transitional justice proceeds in one linear direction over time. Second, that there are clear spatial boundaries between “global” and “local”, whereas there are “multiple points of contact that ‘combust’ in different and often unpredictable ways” (p27). Third, the technical (legal) disciplines associated with transitional justice, which represent particular forms of power and knowledge. Fourth, the normative truth claims and assumptions the “facade” presents, which may diverge from alternative understandings. Fifth, its performative, subjective and aesthetic aspects, which assert a particular script, roles, and a “look” for the delivery of transitional justice, whereas there may be other possibilities. Finally, the idea that there are different “dispositions” toward justice linked to certain categories of people and ideas. The title of each chapter indicates which of these critiques it is meant to address, although they all contribute toward Hinton’s general argument against a progressive linear understanding of transitional justice.

In adopting this structure, which draws out individual stories, Hinton not only advocates for a new approach to examining experiences of transitional justice beyond judicial processes—he implements it. To be sure, there has already been significant critique of the “justice cascade” and the transitional justice “imaginary” Hinton describes, including by some of the “local turn” and critical scholars he references such as Kamari Clarke. Some have identified some of the temporal and spatial dimensions Hinton refers to (and the book could have elaborated upon the theoretical relationship between these two aspects). The ECCC has itself attracted significant criticism. As Hinton notes, this is usually directed toward allegations of corruption, political interference, use of time and resources, or fair trial concerns, than for the more fundamental type of concerns raised by Hinton, although examples exist.

Where Hinton’s work really stands apart, though, is in its phenomenological approach that “reorients attention to what is masked by the justice facade” (p23). The result is a book filled with the fascinating stories one might hear in conversations with Cambodians, or with court and NGO staff in Cambodia, or derive from some exhibitions—but does not frequently find in transitional justice (especially international criminal law) scholarship. The book also offers another space to respectfully share diverse individual experiences that may have been minimised by the trial process.

This alone makes the book worth reading. However, Hinton’s ability to not only critique the standard narrative of transitional justice, but to offer and implement an alternative approach is also impressive—and useful. The Justice Facade extends well beyond a simplistic condemnation of the ECCC as a neo-colonial artifice, by identifying the multiple unexpected and creative initiatives that transitional justice processes may stimulate (“combust”).

This method and argument contributes to transitional justice—and particularly international criminal justice—scholarship and has implications for human rights, peacebuilding, and development studies in Cambodia. The Justice Facade is also compelling reading, with Hinton’s attention toward lived experience offering a richly emotive and personalised account of the dynamic impact of the Democratic Kampuchea period.

Dr Emma Palmer is a Lecturer at Griffith Law School. Her thesis, International Criminal Law in Southeast Asia: Beyond the International Criminal Court, was completed at UNSW, Australia, in 2017. You can follow her on Twitter at @Em7P.