Southeast Asia: Elites vs. Reform in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam

Issue Date April 2012
Volume 23
Issue 2
Page Numbers 34-46
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Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos share a number of similarities: All three countries are former colonies of France located next to one another on the Southeast Asian mainland; all three witnessed the rise of communist parties to nationwide power in the mid-1970s; and all three have also seen fast-rising economic growth and falling poverty since the 1990s, and are viewed as undergoing a process of “reform” involving a shift from central planning to a market economy. Yet Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia remain bastions of illiberalism and one-party rule despite rapid economic growth and falling poverty. What will it take to reform their elitist political cultures and curtail the use of public office for private ends?