Edited by Suiwah Leung, Ben Bingham and Matt Davies
Chapter 11: Historical and Cultural Constraints on Development in the Mekong Region
Martin Stuart-Fox All states in the Mekong region seek economic development. However, owing to differences in the structure of Mekong economies, in resource availability and in stages of development, not all governments promote development equally effectively. Differences in development also arise from differences in the provision of institutional support systems, including enforcement of legal codes and regulations, or to insufficient investment in education, leading to shortages of trained personnel. While government policy can address such matters not all governments are equally willing to undertake reform measures. Other factors also affect the rate and direction of development. These include how a developing society is structured, relations between different social groups, forms of political institutions and how power is exercised, systems of justice, and on the kinds of freedoms enjoyed by citizens. No-one escapes the history of their own society, or the culture in which they were raised. But culture is not fixed; cultures evolve. Understanding how history and culture shape beliefs and institutions permits us not to escape history but to plan and direct it in beneficial ways. The period since 1975, that most momentous year for the ruling regimes of the three countries of the former Indochina – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – has had the most immediate impact on development. But history did not begin in 1975. For Burma/Myanmar the crucial year was 1962 when the military first seized power. For Thailand the events of 1973–75 set the pattern of recent politics, though, as a relatively developed country, Thailand will...
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