Socio-political Violence in Cambodia Between 1990 and 2008: An Explanatory Mixed Methods Study of Social Coherence

Lee C. Fergusson, Kenneth L. Cavanaugh


The relationship between individual and group practice of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program and
reductions in social stress, tension, and violence has been the topic of systematic exploration since the 1970s in Canada,
India, Israel, Lebanon, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, and United States.
Findings from these quantitative studies have been published in leading international conflict resolution and peace
studies journals. However, research in Cambodia has to date only been of a descriptive and qualitative nature with a
focus on economic and social variables not violence or crime.
The purpose of the present study is therefore to examine socio-political violence in Cambodia between January 1990
and December 1992 (the baseline period) and the possible influence of group practice of the Transcendental Meditation
and TM-Sidhi program at Maharishi Vedic University (MVU) by 550 undergraduate students beginning in January
1993 through December 2008 (the impact-assessment period). This study uses an explanatory mixed methods design
to examine socio-political violence using time series analysis of machine-coded news reports (quantitative data) and
document analysis of national and international media reports, personal statements, and public documents (qualitative
Results indicate that beginning in January 1993, when meditating students at MVU began their group practice, a
marked downward shift occurred in the trends of socio-political violence and other forms of violent crime in Cambodia,
contrary to predicted baseline trends and contrary to widespread community and media expectations. Such a
conclusion can be drawn from both the quantitative and qualitative evidence when comparing baseline and
impact-assessment periods, suggesting that the observed decline in socio-political violence during this time was
associated with an increase in peace, order, and harmony—that is, a rise of social coherence—in the collective
consciousness of Cambodia generated by the group of meditating students at MVU.

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