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Understanding Urban Vulnerabilities in Cambodia

The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) and The Asia Foundation organized a talk on “Urban Vulnerabilities in Cambodia”​ on Tuesday, 17 November 2020 between 9.00 a.m. and 10.30 a.m.


Several questions will guide a series of contributions: What are the main forms of urban vulnerability that Phnom Penh and Cambodian cities are facing? What are the blind spots in the research and work on urban vulnerability in Cambodia? Which methodologies and conceptual frameworks could we apply or develop to address urban vulnerabilities in Phnom Penh? Looking forward, what are the potential sources of harm that may materialize in Phnom Penh’s (and other Cambodian cities’) future and which may exacerbate vulnerabilities there, and what are some of the ways we can work towards a more resilient outcome?

Through this online discussion, panelists will explore four key thematic areas in greater depth. Together, they will provide a framework for analysis and directions for possible research in the future.

  • Vulnerabilities related to the relations between rural and urban spaces (e.g. rural to urban migrations, peri urbanization, governance of newly urbanized areas, etc.)
  • Urban vulnerabilities related to environmental transformation (e.g. urban sprawl, the disappearance of peri-urban agriculture, exploitation of the river and aquatic environment)
  • Urban vulnerabilities related to the consequences of large-scale urban development, financialization of real estate, housing, and gentrification.
  • Urban planning and zoning practices as related to the vulnerability and resilience of urban poor communities in Phnom Penh.

By covering these four areas, this webinar wishes to provide a multi-dimensional and multi-scale approach to urban vulnerabilities in Cambodia. If time allows, the speakers will also share their views related to the COVID-19 pandemic and possible relationship/influence with some of the discussed vulnerability and resilience factors.

The guest speakers and moderators in this talk include:

  • Adam Saltsman, Assistant Professor at the Department of Urban Studies at Worcester State University in Massachusetts, speaker
  • Natharoun Ngo, Director of Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), speaker
  • Try Thuon, Senior Research Fellow at Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), speaker
  • Gabriel Fauveaud, Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography, University of Montreal, speaker
  • Dolorès Bertraisud, Ph.D. candidate and Teaching and Research Assistant at Environmental Governance and Territorial Development Institute (GEDT), University of Geneva (Switzerland), speaker
  • Kimchoeun Pak, Independent Researcher, speaker
  • Annika Freudenberger, Urban Research & Innovation Program Manager at Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), moderator
  • Samedy Suong, Head of Programs at Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), moderator
  • Adam Saltsman, Speaker: Adam Saltsman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Director of the Urban Action Institute at Worcester State University in Massachusetts. His research focuses on displacement, bordering, belonging, and social exclusion in urban spaces, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia. Between 2005-2007 he worked in Phnom Penh on transitional justice with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. In 2011, he carried out a study of urban vulnerability in the Thai city of Mae Sot, on the border with Myanmar, producing the report Developing a Profiling Methodology for Displaced People in Urban Areas: Case Study – Mae Sot for the Feinstein International Center. His doctoral work was built on this project to look at the politics of border humanitarianism. Currently, he is working on a participatory research project with youth from refugee backgrounds to explore the overlapping forms of bordering that impact the lives of refugees and other newcomers in US cities.
  • Natharoun Ngo, Speaker:  Natharoun Ngo currently works as director of the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS). He initiated the urban research program and his favorite themes revolve around the transformation of economic and social systems, in particular (1) urban systems, (2) impact investments and social enterprises, and (3) development economics. He worked for a decade with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) till 2016; for business consulting firms in Europe and Asia (Ernst and Young Consulting, Cap Gemini) from 2000 to 2007. He holds an MBA from Paris XII University and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School.
  • Try Thuon, Speaker: Try Thuon holds a Ph.D. in social sciences from an international program from Chiang Mai University, funded by a research program on the Urban Climate Resilience Program in Southeast Asia Partnership (UCRSEA) through the University of Toronto and Thailand Environmental Institute (TEI). His research topic was mainly focused on the politics of urban space-making and resilience practice within emerging secondary cities in the country. His research interest includes resource politics, livelihood system, and water vulnerability, urban climate resilience, urbanization, land use management and spatial plan, and conflict. He joins CKS as a senior research fellow with the urban study unit.
  • Gabriel Fauveaud, Speaker: Gabriel Fauveaud is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and at the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Montreal. His Ph.D. (2013) focused on the dynamics of the urban development of Phnom Penh. His current research explores the sociospatial and sociopolitical aspects of the production of urban spaces in Global South cities. He is particularly interested in real estate, transnationalism in urban planning, financialization, and socio-spatial exclusion. His recent publications include a book on Phnom Penh (The production of urban spaces in Phnom Penh. A social geography of real estate, 2015, Sorbonne University Press), and several papers on urban development processes in Phnom Penh related to land and real estate issues.
  • Dolorès Bertrais, Speaker: Dolorès Bertrais is a Ph.D. candidate and Teaching and Research Assistant at The Environmental Governance and Territorial Development Institute (GEDT) at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). Her research focuses on urban production in South Asia. From 2017 to 2019, she has been an expert junior in urban planning for the Atelier Parisien d’Urbanisme (APUR), in the frame of decentralized cooperation between the Municipality of Phnom Penh and Paris City. She analyses new urban projects in the Southern part of Phnom Penh City trying to understand why, how, and who are the actors contribute to change natural landscapes in Phnom Penh.
  • Kimchoeun Pak, Speaker: Dr. PAK Kimchoeun is a Cambodian researcher. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Finance from Syracuse University, New York in 2002 under Fulbright Scholarship, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Governance from the Australian National University (ANU) in 2010 under the Austrian Leadership Awards (ALA). Since 2003, he has conducted many research and consultancy projects on governance and public sector reforms, especially in the areas of decentralization and public financial management. More recently, he has expanded his research interest to the issue of social protection, labor sector, youth, data analysis, and M&E. Through his work, he has developed a good understanding of policy formulation and implementation in Cambodia and built professional networks with various government and non-government agencies at both national and sub-national level.
  • Annika Freudenberger, Co-Moderator: Annika Freudenberger joined the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) urban research and innovation program in September 2020, a placement made possible through the Luce Scholars program of the Henry Luce Foundation. She specialized in urban studies at university and researched the informal outdoor market economy of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar, where she lived for eleven years. Before joining CKS, Annika worked for the Meridian Institute in the United States, where she provided strategic advice and designed collaborative processes to help governments, foundations, the private sector, and civil society develop and implement solutions to climate and environmental issues.
  • Samedy Suong, Co-Moderator:  joined CKS in November 2017 as Head of Programs of CKS. She oversees all CKS programs and is in charge of initiating new ideas and programs. She also supports quality communication and partnerships. ​She holds a master’s degree in Rural Development from Belgium. Before joining CKS, she worked at UNDP for over 2.5 years as the Project Coordinator for Clearing For Results, a Mine Action project from the end of Phase II to early Phase III of which AusAID was one of the projects donors. Moreover, she worked as Research Fellow at KHANA for over 1.5years.  Her expertise ranges from mine action, gender, HIV/AIDs, and research.

This Urban Vulnerabilities talk will be organized virtually through an online platform as a moderated, panel discussion with representatives from co-hosting organizations and invited researchers. This Urban Vulnerabilities talk begins with a brief introduction and remarks followed by a panel discussion and questions and answers. The Urban Vulnerabilities talk will be conducted in English.


Participants will be required to access the internet to join this virtual Urban Vulnerabilities talk, which will be conducted through Zoom. Invite link to the event will be shared with participants in the invitation letter/email. Participants were required to register before the event.


08:45-9:00          Zoom platform is open
9:00-9:05            Introduction by MC
9:05-9:15             Introduction to the event and the speakers by the moderator
9:15-10:00          Panel discussion
10:00-10:25        Q&A
10:25-10:30        Closing


The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS)

The Center for Khmer Studies facilitates research, knowledge sharing, and insights on topics related to Cambodia’s social, economic, and cultural development. CKS also aims to strengthen research and teaching capacities in the social sciences and humanities as they relate to Cambodia and South East Asia by working with social scientists, sociologists, urban scientists, anthropologists, economists, geographers, political scientists, and others. The institution partners with all major public universities in Cambodia, key development organizations, and relevant public ministries/authorities, and work closely with leading universities and research centers across the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

Ponlok Chomnes: Data and Dialogue for Development in Cambodia

In partnership with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Asia Foundation is implementing Ponlok Chomnes: Data and Dialogue for Development in Cambodia—a three-year initiative (2019-2022)—to strengthen the capacity of knowledge sector institutions to undertake quality research that informs public policy analysis and dialogue in Cambodia.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the publications and through webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. The designations employed in the publications and through the webinars, and the presentation of material therein, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. as to the matters discussed therein. The responsibility for opinions expressed in the publications and webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers, and the publication does not constitute an endorsement by The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. of the opinions, views or issues discussed therein.


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