International Publications  

Facebook, Contestation and Poor People’s Politics: Spanning the Urban–Rural Divide in Cambodia?

Published: 28-Oct-2018


Rural internet use, although still limited, is growing, raising the question of how rural people are using social media politically. As a vehicle of communication that permits the rapid transmission of information, images and text across space and connections between dispersed networks of individuals, does technological advance in rural areas presage significant political transformations? This article investigates this question in the light of a poor result for the Cambodian People’s Party in the 2013 elections, and the subsequent banning of the main opposition party, before the 2018 elections. Expanding internet use in rural areas has linked relatively quiescent rural Cambodians for the first time to networks of information about militant urban movements of the poor. Rural Cambodians are responding to this opportunity through strategies of quiet encroachment in cyberspace. This has had real effects on the nature of the relationship between the dominant party and the rural population and suggests the declining utility of the election-winning strategy used by the party since 1993. However, the extent of this virtual information revolution is limited, since neither the urban nor rural poor are mapping out new online political strategies, agendas or identities that can push Cambodia’s sclerotic politics in new directions.

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