Ethnic Insurgent Cohesion and Fragmentation in Post-Coup Myanmar

Alexandre Paquin-Pelletier, Cornell University


Myanmar Amidst a Pandemic and a Coup


This paper examines the factors that account for insurgent cohesion and fragmentation in the post-coup context in Myanmar. It argues that although contextual and ideational factors matter to insurgent cohesion, cohesion is more robust where insurgent groups build their movement on strong pre-war networks and are able to provide public goods. These two factors help create inclusive inter-elite alliances and turn individuals into “citizens” of a larger ensemble shape inter-ethnic dynamics. The paper examines the case of Kachin, where the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has experienced pushbacks from Rawang, Lisu, and Shan-ni minorities. The paper shows that interethnic tensions in Kachin are the outcome of: 1) incomplete inter-elite alliances due to the uneven spread of Christian networks through which nation-builders worked; and 2) the variable and declining capacity of the KIO to provide public goods inclusively across all their state. The paper concludes by suggesting that pre-war networks and state-like capacity will determine whether EAOs remain cohesive or fragmented in this new phase of Myanmar's long civil war. Patterns of cohesion and fragmentation are crucial to the future of Myanmar’s civil war, whether the main cleavage remains the same or shift into inter-ethnic conflict.

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