There are Two Sides to Every COIN

Of Economic and Military Means in Myanmar’s Comprehensive Approach to Illiberal Peacebuilding

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
Stefano Ruzza University of Turin and T.wai, Torino World Affairs Institute

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The capacity of Myanmar’s government to effectively rule and administer peripheral areas of the country has been challenged since independence by a vast array of non-state armed groups (NSAGs), and the country is home to the most long-lasting insurgencies still active today. The core interest of this article rests on analysing the degree of continuity and change in the strategy enacted by Myanmar’s government in order to counter, contain and re-absorb insurgencies in the wake of the recent liberalisation process. The government activity vis-à-vis insurgencies is assessed in two core dimensions: economic and military. The analysis is developed in diachronic perspective, spanning three key phases. The first, meant to provide the essential historical background and benchmark, is the post-1989 period, characterised by the implementation of the ceasefires. The other two focus on the current transition, splitting it into two (2008–2011 and 2011–2015), taking Thein Sein’s new peace plan as a turning point. Moving through these three phases the paper assesses how Myanmar’s government achieves a balance between military pressure and economic incentives in the face of three major insurgencies: in Shan state, versus various NSAGs; against the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO); and against the Karen National Union (KNU).

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