(P11) Border governance in Myanmar: Contested and plural political spaces
Wed 11:00-12:30 K14 | 2.07
- Helene Maria Kyed Danish Institute for International Studies
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Election cancellations in ethnic border states
Michael Lidauer Myanmar Institut
Past elections in Myanmar did not take place in all parts of the country, and significant numbers of people have been excluded from the vote, including in areas of ongoing armed conflict, areas of contested sovereignty, those affected by internal displacement, and the Rohingya. The local cancellation or postponement of elections is little understood by voters, election administrators, and observers alike, but in 2020 has brought frictions between civilian and military decision makers in particular to the fore. This preceded the 1 February 2021 coup d’état, which was legitimized by the Tatmadaw with a narrative of electoral fraud that continues to be upheld as fresh elections and new frameworks are announced for the future.
Internal Migration and inter-ethnic relationships in Myanmar
Ardeth Thawnghmung Political Science, Peace and Conflict Studies
Conventional studies show that internal migration is associated with violence in countries that have regionally concentrated minorities with a strong local identity, where migrants pose economic, political, and identity threats to native-born, and during periods of political transition. These conditions were all present in Myanmar, where concern over the loss of territories and identity grew following the democratic transition, which gave limited autonomy to sub-regional units and allowed citizens to express their grievances openly. Despite major ethnic conflict and displacement in Northern Rakhine and high levels of distrust and hostility within Myanmar’s various ethnic groups, intercommunal relationships between “migrant” and “native” communities remained relatively free of violence. Our field research in Myanmar, conducted in 14 townships between 2018-2020, found that potential for violence between native and migrant communities was mitigated by the presence of mutually beneficial economic exchanges between native and migrant populations; shared cultural identities between native and migrant residents; and pre-existing tensions among native-born populations.
Local orders and exclusion in Rakhine State
Nyana Yoni Independant researcher
While international focus has been on armed violence and Rohingya refugee flows from Rakhine state, this article pays attention to the myriad forms of ‘everyday discrimination’ that Muslim Rohingya people have experienced over a prolonged time. These forms of discrimination were observed by the author and reported by Rohingya informants in three areas of Rakhine state during research conducted in 2015. The article argues that systemic discrimination against Rohingya people can be understood as the violent enactment of bordering processes by both state and non-state actors at multiple scales, thus contributing to border governance. Bordering processes can be observed at the national level through the construction of citizenship in law and documentation; at the sub-national level through the restriction of travel and mobility at the township and village levels in Rakhine state; at the household level through household registrations and the control of births, marriages, and family relationships; as well as at the individual level through arrests, detention, and acts of violence. The border is enacted through such processes, with Rohingya people treated as an embodiment of both a political boundary between Myanmar and Bangladesh, and a social boundary constructing the Muslims as ‘fearsome and disgusting others’ by the country’s non-Rohingya groups, particularly by the majority Bamar Buddhist population.
Rakhine have seen important political changes since several weeks after the 1. February 2021 military coup. Arakan Army (AA) formed with majority Rakhine Buddhists have extended its authority in Northern and Central Part of Rakhine State. It is also widely said by Rakhine Buddhists that new Arakan State will be established with the leadership of Arakan Army. The changing political landscapes makes the ethnic groups of double minorities including Rohingya people living in Rakhine State highly concerned about their equal rights, self-determination, and freedom.
Refugee Policy as Border Governance: Refugee return, peacebuilding and Myanmar’s politics of transition
Kirsten McConnachie University of East Anglia
This paper focuses on the issue of displacement from Myanmar pre- and post-coup. It begins by summarising research conducted before the coup, which argued that policies for return and repatriation of refugees to Myanmar represented a form of border governance at three scales: (1) global border control by keeping refugees in their region/country of origin, (2) national border control by reinforcing boundaries between Myanmar and surrounding states, and (3) the governance of political transition by reinforcing the Myanmar government’s narrative of peacebuilding by recasting continuing conflict as conditions suitable for refugee return. The significance of this argument, and particularly the third theme, has become increasingly apparent since the coup in February. It is now inescapable that the Myanmar military leadership was never committed to peacebuilding or democratic transition, and that refugees’ opposition to return was wholly rational. The paper will conclude by summarising key lessons for refugee policymakers and new directions for refugee policy for Myanmar, including the importance of “centring the borders”.
In Southeast Asia borders and bordering processes are central to politics and the governance of people, goods and territories; not only as markers of territorial-administrative control but also as practices that shape dynamics of inclusion and inclusion, mobility/immobility, and relations of power and authority. In this panel we introduce the concept of ‘border governance’ to discuss the multiplex practices and modes of governance that co-exist and often compete in the ethnic states of Myanmar, bordering Bangladesh, China, India, Thailand and Laos. These borderlands have a long history of ethno-nationalist conflict and the internal borders of these areas in relation to the centre have been extremely influential in shaping the country’s political history and particularly its decades of structural discrimination, violence and persecution of minority ethnic groups. Papers on the panel will explore border governance through the lens of migration, local orders, political
exclusion, and (if Helene presents) competing state-making processes.