The institutionalisation of Oknha: Cambodian entrepreneurship at the interface of business and politics

M.J. Verver, H. Dahles

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Since the early 1990s in Cambodia, the title of “oknha” has been bestowed upon business people who make substantial financial contributions to national development projects. Recipients of this honour are identified by the leadership of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), in particular Prime Minister Hun Sen. This article addresses the politics of awarding and receiving the oknha title as an expression of the reciprocal relationship between the Cambodian business elite and the CPP leadership, the so-called “elite pact.” This pact revolves around the tacit agreement that the oknha receive protection and privileges in their business ventures in return for loyalty and financial contributions to the CPP. Building on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, this article reveals the unequal albeit reciprocal patronage relationships that cement the interdependencies between business and state actors. In terms of theoretical contribution, this article proposes that oknha, being both the medium and the outcome of the encompassing patronage system, is subject to processes of institutionalisation within the elite organisational field and is turning into a template that regulates and orders entrepreneurial ventures at the interface of business and politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-70
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Volume45
Issue number1
Early online date7 Apr 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The institutionalisation of Oknha: Cambodian entrepreneurship at the interface of business and politics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this