This project critically interrogates processes of urban change in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. As UN-categorised ‘Least Developed Countries’, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are home to some of the world’s most vulnerable and impoverished communities. Yet, all three countries are also amongst the 10 fastest growing economies. Boasting urbanisation rates significantly above both the global average and the East Asia and the Pacific average (Laos’ urbanisation rate is the 20th fastest in the world), rapid urbanisation is bringing dramatic socio-economic upheaval, livelihood change, and complex new processes of inclusion and exclusion. As China advances its Belt and Road initiative – and as South-South cooperation brings new aid and investment flows from a range of partners – such transformations are set to accelerate in coming years. Through multi-sited in-country fieldwork, desk-based research, diverse stakeholder engagement, and comparative analysis, this project seeks to determine:

  • How the politics of urban development are unfolding in Southeast Asia’s Least Developed Countries
  • Who the leading actors driving urban change are
  • How ‘development’ is being framed and understood within urban environments of disparate space and scale, and
  • Who most benefits or is disadvantaged by current processes of urban change.

In coming to answer these questions, the project seeks to uncover new processes for more inclusive and environmentally sustainable urban development.


JCU College of Science and Engineering Startup Grant

Lead Researcher(s)

Dr Kearrin Sims JCU image

Dr Kearrin Sims