In Cambodia, the interactions between large-scale land investment and land titling gathered particular momentum in 2012–13, when the government initiated an unprecedented upland land titling programme in an attempt to address land tenure insecurity where large-scale land investment overlaps with land appropriated by peasants.
This paper is based on a spatially explicit ethnography of land rights conducted in the Samlaut district of north-west Cambodia – a former Khmer Rouge resistance stronghold – in a context where the enclosures are both incomplete and entangled with post-war, socially embedded land tenure systems. We discuss how this new pattern of fragmentation affects the prevailing dynamics of agrarian change.
We argue that it has introduced new forms of exclusion and a generalized perception of land tenure uncertainty that is managed by peasants through the actualization of hybrid land tenure arrangements borrowing from state rules and local consensus. In contrast with common expectations about land formalization, the process reinforces the patterns of social differentiation initiated by land rent capture practices of early migrants and pushes more vulnerable peasants into seeking wage labour and resorting to job migration.