Precarity, Territory, and Identity Politics Panel
Ethnicité et conflit au Myanmar
Chair/Président: Htet Thiha Zaw, University of Michigan
Discussant/Intervenant: Htet Thiha Zaw, University of Michigan
Recent advances in the empirical literature demonstrate that ethnic rebellion is causally linked to an ethnic group’s political status, specifically political exclusion. In other words, political inclusion has a peace-inducing effect. Yet, ethnic groups that are included in meaningful power-sharing arrangements do rebel. Why do politically included ethnic groups rebel? What motivates ethnic rebellion? I argue that the conflict-dampening effect of political inclusion is undermined by heterogeneity within ethnic minority communities. I propose a theory of ethnic rebellion that emphasizes within-group heterogeneity, colonial legacy, and ethno-nationalism. This explanation involves two related components: an ethnic group consists of many factions, holding different ideas about how to relate to the post-colonial state, and ethnic identity is more fixed for some members of an ethnic group than others and these individuals develop strong ethno-nationalist views. Given the heterogeneity, ethnic rebellion may still be initiated by ethno-nationalists even if an ethnic group has political representation. I substantiate these claims by conducting a subnational study of Burma. Through a comparative case study of how ethnic rebellion began in Burma’s ethnic communities, this paper shows that the onset of rebellion occurred in ethnic communities in spite of political inclusion and that the onsets of rebellion in politically excluded ethnic communities are not due to political exclusion.
Who votes for ethnic minority parties and why? Using an original survey experiment from Myanmar, I argue that we need to pay attention to how subnational boundaries sharpen regional identity and create new majority-minority dynamics. These determine the kind of political community (ethnic, regional, or national) that ethnic minorities see themselves as being part of, and in turn affects the rate of ethnic voting. At the same time, subnational dynamics can also influence how ethnic minority parties are perceived by voters. When the ethnic party in question seeks to represent the subnational majority, subnational minorities may view themselves as potential beneficiaries of the party’s platform, facilitating cross-ethnic voting.
Burmese military-state building development through ceasefire agreement, known as ceasefire capitalism, has fundamentally failed to address longstanding political grievances and state violences against Karen civilians. Rather, territorial expansion and heightened state control over Indigenous Karen people in Mutraw district have been disguised as “peace” and “peace process” defined and crafted by the Myanmar military. Karen civilians, who continue to experience state violences and oppression do not trust this state-designed peace process and thus, they do not easily buy into escalating state violences packaged as “development” and “control” disguised as “peace.” This paper shows how the state-defined “peace” and state-designed “peace process” are an illusion for Karen civilians in Mutraw district and calls for genuine peace that ends state violences and oppression, and guarantees justice in people’s everyday life, as envisioned in the Salween Peace Park.
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