Cover: Home SOS, 1 by Katherine Brickell

RGS‐IBG Book Series

For further information about the series and a full list of published and forthcoming titles please visit


Home SOS: Gender, Violence, and Survival in Crisis Ordinary Cambodia
Katherine Brickell

Geographies of Anticolonialism: Political Networks Across and Beyond South India, c. 1900–1930
Andrew Davies

Geopolitics and the Event: Rethinking Britain’s Iraq War Through Art
Alan Ingram

On Shifting Foundations: State Rescaling, Policy Experimentation and Economic Restructuring in Post‐1949 China
Kean Fan Lim

Global Asian City: Migration, Desire and the Politics of Encounter in 21st Century Seoul
Francis L. Collins

Transnational Geographies of the Heart: Intimate Subjectivities in a Globalizing City
Katie Walsh

Cryptic Concrete: A Subterranean Journey into Cold War Germany
Ian Klinke

Work‐Life Advantage: Sustaining Regional Learning and Innovation
Al James

Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics
Steve Hinchliffe, Nick Bingham, John Allen and Simon Carter

Smoking Geographies: Space, Place and Tobacco
Ross Barnett, Graham Moon, Jamie Pearce, Lee Thompson and Liz Twigg

Rehearsing the State: The Political Practices of the Tibetan Government‐in‐Exile
Fiona McConnell

Nothing Personal? Geographies of Governing and Activism in the British Asylum System
Nick Gill

Articulations of Capital: Global Production Networks and Regional Transformations
John Pickles and Adrian Smith, with Robert Begg, Milan Buček, Poli Roukova and Rudolf Pástor

Metropolitan Preoccupations: The Spatial Politics of Squatting in Berlin
Alexander Vasudevan

Everyday Peace? Politics, Citizenship and Muslim Lives in India
Philippa Williams

Assembling Export Markets: The Making and Unmaking of Global Food Connections in West Africa
Stefan Ouma

Africa’s Information Revolution: Technical Regimes and Production Networks in South Africa and Tanzania
James T. Murphy and Pádraig Carmody

Origination: The Geographies of Brands and Branding
Andy Pike

In the Nature of Landscape: Cultural Geography on the Norfolk Broads
David Matless

Geopolitics and Expertise: Knowledge and Authority in European Diplomacy
Merje Kuus

Everyday Moral Economies: Food, Politics and Scale in Cuba
Marisa Wilson

Material Politics: Disputes Along the Pipeline
Andrew Barry

Fashioning Globalisation: New Zealand Design, Working Women and the Cultural Economy
Maureen Molloy and Wendy Larner

Working Lives – Gender, Migration and Employment in Britain, 1945–2007
Linda McDowell

Dunes: Dynamics, Morphology and Geological History
Andrew Warren

Spatial Politics: Essays for Doreen Massey
Edited by David Featherstone and Joe Painter

The Improvised State: Sovereignty, Performance and Agency in Dayton Bosnia
Alex Jeffrey

Learning the City: Knowledge and Translocal Assemblage
Colin McFarlane

Globalizing Responsibility: The Political Rationalities of Ethical Consumption
Clive Barnett, Paul Cloke, Nick Clarke and Alice Malpass

Domesticating Neo‐Liberalism: Spaces of Economic Practice and Social Reproduction in Post‐Socialist Cities
Alison Stenning, Adrian Smith, Alena Rochovská and Dariusz Świątek

Swept Up Lives? Re‐envisioning the Homeless City
Paul Cloke, Jon May and Sarah Johnsen

Aerial Life: Spaces, Mobilities, Affects
Peter Adey

Millionaire Migrants: Trans‐Pacific Life LinesDavid Ley

State, Science and the Skies: Governmentalities of the British Atmosphere
Mark Whitehead

Complex Locations: Women’s Geographical Work in the UK 1850–1970
Avril Maddrell

Value Chain Struggles: Institutions and Governance in the Plantation Districts of South India
Jeff Neilson and Bill Pritchard

Queer Visibilities: Space, Identity and Interaction in Cape Town
Andrew Tucker

Arsenic Pollution: A Global Synthesis
Peter Ravenscroft, Hugh Brammer and Keith Richards

Resistance, Space and Political Identities: The Making of Counter‐Global Networks
David Featherstone

Mental Health and Social Space: Towards Inclusionary Geographies?
Hester Parr

Climate and Society in Colonial Mexico: A Study in Vulnerability
Georgina H. Endfield

Geochemical Sediments and Landscapes
Edited by David J. Nash and Sue J. McLaren

Driving Spaces: A Cultural‐Historical Geography of England’s M1 Motorway
Peter Merriman

Badlands of the Republic: Space, Politics and Urban Policy
Mustafa Dikeç

Geomorphology of Upland Peat: Erosion, Form and Landscape Change
Martin Evans and Jeff Warburton

Spaces of Colonialism: Delhi’s Urban Governmentalities
Stephen Legg

Rhys Jones

Publics and the City
Kurt Iveson

After the Three Italies: Wealth, Inequality and Industrial Change
Mick Dunford and Lidia Greco

Putting Workfare in Place
Peter Sunley, Ron Martin and Corinne Nativel

Domicile and Diaspora
Alison Blunt

Geographies and Moralities
Edited by Roger Lee and David M. Smith

Military Geographies
Rachel Woodward

A New Deal for Transport?
Edited by Iain Docherty and Jon Shaw

Geographies of British Modernity
Edited by David Gilbert, David Matless and Brian Short

Lost Geographies of Power
John Allen

Globalizing South China
Carolyn L. Cartier

Geomorphological Processes and Landscape Change: Britain in the Last 1000 Years
Edited by David L. Higgitt and E. Mark Lee

Home SOS

Gender, Violence, and Survival in Crisis Ordinary Cambodia

Katherine Brickell

No alt text required.

For Christian and Stefan

List of Figures

Figure 1.1 SOS sign in Boeung Kak Lake, Phnom Penh, 2011.
Figure 1.2 Orm’s sugar cane juice stall outside her home, Siem Reap, 2004
Figure 1.3 Exterior of Orm’s home in, Siem Reap, 2004.
Figure 1.4 Domestic violence law poster in Pursat Province, 2013.
Figure 1.5 Slorkram river community before (26 March) and after (27 March) the eviction, Siem Reap, 2012.
Figure 1.6 Audio‐taped tour of Boeung Kak by residents, 2013.
Figure 3.1 The fall of Phnom Penh, 1975.
Figure 3.2 Khmer Rouge women’s unit harvesting rice.
Figure 3.3 Elite Town III, Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, 2019.
Figure 3.4 One park development built on the former Boeung Kake Lake, 2018.
Figure 4.1 Kalliyan’s new house (right) next to her parents’ (left), Siem Reap Province, 2011.
Figure 4.2 The shattered brick line of an evicted house in BKL swallowed up by sand, 2011.
Figure 4.3 Evidence of inundated homes, 2013.
Figure 4.4 Interviewee’s photograph of their drowned home, 2013.
Figure 4.5 Civica Royal Phnom Penh Golf Club, 2013.
Figure 4.6 Vacant plots at Trapaing Anhchanh resettlement site, 2013.
Figure 4.7 Typical makeshift housing at the Trapaing Anhchanh resettlement site, 2013.
Figure 4.8 Chankrisna’s watch, 2014.
Figure 5.1 Stopped ‘One Billion Rising’ cycling event, 2014.
Figure 5.2 Boeung Kak women’s workshop, 2013.
Figure 5.3 BKL women’s lotus‐wielding activism, 2012.
Figure 5.4 Lotus flowers at the barricade line, 2012.
Figure 5.5 SOS protest on the former BKL as US President Obama lands to attend ASEAN meetings, 2012.
Figure 5.6 Tep Vanny with Hillary Clinton, Vital Voices Awards, Washington DC, 2013.
Figure 6.1 A typical commune office where local reconciliation takes place, 2012.
Figure 6.2 Security guards at a protest in Phnom Penh, 2014.
Figure 6.3 Phan Chhunreth in ‘Stop Violence Against Women’ T‐shirt, 2014.
Figure 6.4 Tep Vanny interview with the media outside the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, 2014.
Figure 6.5 Release of the ‘BKL 13’, 2013.
Figure 6.6 Drawing of ‘Mother Tep Vanny’ (top) with ‘Nana’ (middle) and a boy (bottom), 2013.
Figure 6.7 Reaching out to Michelle Obama outside the US Embassy, 2015.
Figure 6.8 Amnesty International protest outside the Cambodian Embassy in London, 2018.
Figure 6.9 Tep Vanny upon release from jail, 2018.
Figure 6.10 ‘Footprints’ artwork by Cambodian schoolchildren under the direction of Heak Pheary, 2016.

List of Abbreviations

Asian Development Bank
The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association
Association of World Council of Churches related Development Organisations in Europe
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Australian Aid
Belt and Road Initiative
Boeung Kak Lake
The Cambodian Committee for Women
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Cambodian National Rescue Party
Center on Housing Rights and Evictions
Cambodian Peoples’ Party
Compliance Review Panel
Democratic Kampuchea
Domestic violence
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Economic Land Concession
Foreign Direct Investment
National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia
Gender and Development for Cambodia
The Gender and Development Network
Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit
Greater Mekong Subregion
Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit
The International Center for Not‐for‐Profit Law
Inclusive Development International
International Labour Organization
The Law on Associations and Non‐Governmental Organizations
Cambodia League for the Promotion and Deference of Human Rights
Land Management and Administrative Project
Ministry of Women’s Affairs
The National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women
The National Committee for Upholding Cambodian Social Morality, Women’s and Khmer Family Values
Non‐governmental organisation
Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW
National Institute of Statistics
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Partners for Prevention
People’s Republic of Kampuchea
Royal Government of Cambodia
Supreme National Council
United Nations
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations General Assembly
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United States
United States Dollar
The Voice of America
World Health Organization
Women’s Media Centre

About the Author

Katherine Brickell is Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL), UK. Her research cross‐cuts social, political, legal, and development geography, with a longstanding focus on the domestic sphere as a precarious and gendered space of contemporary everyday life. She has over 15 years of research experience in Cambodia and since 2017 has begun to undertake new collaborative work in the UK and Ireland. Home SOS is Katherine’s first monograph and follows the publication of co‐edited collections including Translocal Geographies (2011 with Ayona Datta), Geographies of Forced Eviction (2017 with Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia and Alex Vasudevan), The Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia (2017 with Simon Springer), and The Handbook of Displacement (2020 with her RHUL colleagues). In recognition of research excellence, she was conferred the Gill Memorial Award by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS‐IBG) in 2014 and the Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2016. She is editor of the journal Gender, Place and Culture and is former Chair of the RGS‐IBG Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group.

Series Editor’s Preface

The RGS‐IBG Book Series only publishes work of the highest international standing. Its emphasis is on distinctive new developments in human and physical geography, although it is also open to contributions from cognate disciplines whose interests overlap with those of geographers. The Series places strong emphasis on theoretically informed and empirically strong texts. Reflecting the vibrant and diverse theoretical and empirical agendas that characterize the contemporary discipline, contributions are expected to inform, challenge and stimulate the reader. Overall, the RGS‐IBG Book Series seeks to promote scholarly publications that leave an intellectual mark and change the way readers think about particular issues, methods or theories.

For details on how to submit a proposal please visit:

David Featherstone
University of Glasgow, UK

RGS‐IBG Book Series Editor


It is difficult to know where to start writing these acknowledgements. I first submitted the proposal for Home SOS in 2012, and eight years on, its journey into print has finally come to an end. This end point has only been made possible through sustained, and much appreciated, professional and personal guidance and support.

The book would not exist without the time, generosity and emotional energy of participants in sharing their stories of domestic life in Cambodia. It has been an honour and a privilege to listen to and write about their intimate experiences in Home SOS. The four studies the book is based on have been made possible by the interpreters and research assistants I have worked with – young and inspiring Cambodians who I am incredibly grateful to for their dedication and kindness. I feel saddened and torn that I cannot name them here given the political sensitivities of the book, which have only intensified over the course of writing it. I am also grateful to the many photographers who have allowed me to use their images free of charge in the book to provide the reader with a visual sense of home precarities unfolding in Cambodia. The joint reporting of Cambodian and international journalists on forced eviction in national newspapers, now shut down or under new management, has been particularly helpful to understanding the frequency and impact of women’s activism in relation to Boeung Kak Lake.

Thank you to the RGS‐IBG Book Series for your expertise and understanding in bringing the book to fruition over such a long period of time. Thank you to Neil Coe and Dave Featherstone for providing constructive feedback at each stage, and to Jacqueline Scott for liaising with me for so many years.

The Leverhulme Trust has been instrumental in enabling the time to write the monograph. I would also like to thank the funders of the research, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Royal Geographical Society. The PhD research that forms the initial basis for Home SOS was supervised by Sylvia Chant at the London School of Economics. Thank you Sylvia for giving me the best start in my academic journey, for believing in me and for showing me what passion and drive can achieve. Since 2008 I have been a researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London and having been home to my scholarly endeavours for over a decade, it is only fitting that I thank my colleagues, both academic and administrative, for the support offered.

In the academic community, I am also honoured to have had ongoing support from geographers who have read and commented on the many iterations of the book. Ruth Craggs is of especial note for having read drafts of each and every chapter, on multiple occasions. Since meeting for the first time at the Las Vegas AAG in 2009, I have rarely felt lonely in academia because of our friendship and our writing side‐by‐side across cafes in London. I am also grateful for the many writing retreats we have been on, memorably battling through snow to get there, and taking trips to garden centres as shared spaces of happiness in which to clear our heads. Writing retreats have been a key way I have managed to push the book substantively forward. Thank you Harriet Hawkins for our cherished writing retreats together, and for being such a positive and reassuring figure in the journey of this book. I have also benefitted from the insightful feedback given to me by James Tyner, Nithya Natarajan, and Laurie Parsons and which extended the book’s ambitions in the final year of its writing. The opportunity for honed thinking has also been facilitated by the feedback shared with me through departmental seminars at the University of Leicester, King’s College London and Durham University.

The long journey of the book’s coming to pass has arisen through personal circumstances that I could never have predicted when I began writing. Soon after returning from maternity leave in 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare cancer, Pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), and took medical leave to undertake major surgical and chemotherapy treatment. As the disease is so rare, it is important that I use this opportunity to raise awareness of it (see Macmillan and Cancer Research UK web pages). Throughout my treatment, and in the years since, I have received practical and emotional advice from the PMP community of fellow survivors and its organisation run by carers and patients ( My being here is testament to the NHS and the dedicated surgeons and nurses at the Peritoneal Malignancy Institute at Basingstoke, who I want to sincerely thank. I would like to note Mr Sanjay Dayal, my lead consultant surgeon, and specialist nurse Vicki Pleavin‐Evans for being there, still, at the end of the phone with your wise words. Given the significance of the treatment, I would also like to thank Gary Walker and Crystal Sutar at Grafton Tennis Club for working with me slowly, but surely, every week to build my confidence and trust in my body again.

Home SOS has been a monograph that has been with me on this unexpected journey, offering a sense of continuity and reflection in difficult times. Thank you Ruth Jacob, Ali Moss and Jana Ulph for providing me with a safe space to offload and to laugh; to Ellen Wiles for inspiring me and offering solidarity; and to Christine Widerøe Frenvik for our enduring friendship, which began upon a chance meeting on the streets of Siem Reap so many moons ago. Finally, I would like to warmly thank my family, without whom none of this would have been possible. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my parents and sister for caring for me through years of fieldwork, and offering practical, childcare and emotional support when it mattered most. This book is dedicated to my husband Christian and son Stefan, the loves of my life, from whom I have gained daily encouragement and joy. You have steadfastly held my hand, through my concurrent health challenges and the writing of Home SOS. I simply cannot thank you enough.

Katherine Brickell

Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of LondonEgham Hill