Trying to follow the money: Possibilities and limits of investor transparency in Southeast Asia's rush for "available" land

TitleTrying to follow the money: Possibilities and limits of investor transparency in Southeast Asia's rush for "available" land
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDwyer MB
Paginationi-viii, 1-60
Key themesDispossession-grabbing, FDI, Formalisation-titling

ABSTRACTED FROM EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Half a decade into the global land rush, land-intensive investment throughout Southeast Asia continues to confront social and environmental issues such as land conflict and improperly regulated forest conversion. This study uses publicly available financial and spatial data to examine the geography of land-intensive investment in Southeast Asia, and to identify the limits imposed by problems with data availability. It focuses on three regions where land has been widely seen to be available for new investment: Indonesia’s outer islands; the “development triangle” where Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam meet; and the Golden Quadrangle region which comprises the borderlands of northeastern Myanmar, northwestern Laos, southern and western Yunnan, and northern Thailand. These areas are examined in three chapter case studies, each of which uses the currently available spatial data to evaluate trade and investment dynamics in the area – including processes that are used to make land available – and combines these, where possible, with specially commissioned research on investment in key commodity crops to evaluate transparency with respect to financing. In a global and regional context where regulatory change is increasingly being driven by transnational concerns – by consumers, retailers and investors – information systems capable of tracking particular investments’ spatial targets, and thus their likelihood of various social and environmental outcomes, is increasingly desirable. This study describes current capabilities and challenges to realizing a more complete picture of investors’ roles in the development of “available” land.


Available for download


Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Regional, Thailand, Vietnam

Document Type

Working Paper