Nithya Natarajan is a Postdoctoral Research Associate on a project entitled ‘Blood Bricks: Examining the Modern Slavery-Climate Change Nexus in the Cambodian Construction Industry’, based at Royal Holloway, University of London. Prior to this, Nithya’s PhD research as an ESRC Doctoral Scholar at SOAS, University of London, focussed on deagrarianisation among tobacco farmers and traders in South India, with an emphasis on environmental change. Nithya is interested in agrarian development, climate change, labour relations, and structural transformation. She has written and presented widely on both the Blood Bricks project and her PhD research.
Cambodia today is the site of one of the world’s largest microcredit sectors. While it is widely believed that the extension of microcredit to Cambodia’s poor should be cause for all-round celebration, this essay reveals disquieting evidence of a deeply problematic development intervention. Indebted to microcredit institutions, increasing numbers of Cambodia’s poor population have been forced to accept exploitative labour conditions in the garment and construction industry, driven to despair due to the loss of their land, and, in the worst cases, had no choice but to ‘sell’ themselves as bonded labour to brick kilns owners.