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Minorities in Burma/Myanmar

Matthew Walton
University of Oxford


List of Papers: 

    • Dilemma in the Periphery: A Narrative of the Mizo-Chin Relation
    • Legitimacy in Conflict: The Role of Elite-Grassroots Relations within Myanmar’s Ethnonational Insurgencies
    • Muslim Refugees in Thailand: From the Hope to Trafficking, From Rohingya to Uyghur



    Paper 1: Dilemma in the Periphery: A Narrative of the Mizo-Chin Relations

    Reshmi Banerjee
    St Antony’s College, University of Oxford /

    Borders represent the state margin where there is prevalence of inter-ethnic relations and identity politics. These peripheral areas do not figure in the national imagination nor in the national policies. On one hand, trans nationalization of social spaces are occurring but there are challenges faced by the border areas like armed conflict, drug and human trafficking, illegal trade and migration, environmental destruction etc. The paper would specifically look at the conflict taking place in the Indo-Myanmar border region with special focus on the Chins of Myanmar. The Chins (since 1988) have been fleeing their country to take refuge in the state of Mizoram in India and many have moved to the national capital Delhi. Military repression and economic impasse forced them to move, but this movement has brought with it an uncertain future for them. The Mizos and the Chins share historical, ethnic and religious ties, yet the competition for opportunities and resources has created a feeling of hostility and mistrust. Xenophobic attitudes accompanied by lack of adequate social protection policies have made the going tough for them. The impact of this has been felt on the Mizo economy and society. The Chins have been restricted to the informal sector, faced problems of livelihood, education, health etc. They are fearful of being deported. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. However, the locals blame the Chins for illegal trade and illicit liquor brewing. Also they are held responsible for social evils. The state of Mizoram has a tough task for itself as the numbers of the Chins from Myanmar are huge (more than 100,000), thus putting pressure on the limited state’s resources. Interventions have been made to improve their lives, but a lot further can be done. Their condition brings us importantly to the issue of statelessness and citizenship. One witnesses the sad reality that those who are profoundly affected are the least privileged. Homelessness is accompanied by a feeling of deep alienation and uprootedness. The lack of a genuine sense of belonging is also related to how we define ourselves. The narrow definition of a nation in terms of territorial boundaries sometimes do not allow us to open our hearts and minds to the genuine concerns of our neighbours. The paper will explore some of these above critical issues.


    Paper 2: Legitimacy in Conflict: The Role of Elite-Grassroots Relations within Myanmar’s Ethnonational Insurgencies

    David Brenner
    London School of Economics and Political Science

    This paper investigates the role that legitimacy plays in the internal power struggles of non-state armed groups by asking how the factions of rival rebel elites come to be viewed as more or less legitimate by their movement’s grassroots in relation to one another. To address this question the paper builds on ethnographically-informed field research on the elite-grassroots relations in eastern Myanmar’s Karen insurgency since its incumbent leaders signed a historic ceasefire with the government in 2012. To do so it starts with charting previous findings on rebel governance, which have forwarded the idea of an insurgent social contract between insurgent elites and non-elites, e.g. by way of social services and protection in return for taxes and conscripts. Varying governance arrangements in eastern Myanmar can indeed explain some of the differentials in legitimacy of Karen rebel elites. That said, ethnographic studies argue that distributional outcomes are insufficient to account for the support for or participation in insurgency. More important seem to be issues of identity and recognition. The paper combines these insights with theories from sociology and social psychology. By doing so, it will be shown how for insurgent grassroots to view rebel elites as legitimate it is necessary that membership or support of insurgency forwards their self-perceived positive social identity. Insurgency itself, therefore, needs to be regarded as a high-value collective based on moral grounds. On an everyday basis this is communicated by the way how elites behave, particularly whether their behaviour is seen as concurring with the beliefs, norms, and practices of the insurgent political culture.


    Paper 3: Muslim Refugees in Thailand: From the Hope to Trafficking, From Rohingya to Uyghur
    Yasmin Sattar
    Istanbul University

    In recent years, the problem of Muslim refugees in Thailand have been addressed out into the public mainly the network of human trafficking which has existing for a period of time, led to a large number of victims either become slaves of modern capital world or die. Rohingyas are the terms using to call the people who live in northern Rakhine or Arakan in Myanmar. Since World War II, the conflict between Rohingya and Arakanese had been emerged which caused to the beginning of their immigrant both legally and illegally. Similarly to the Uyghurs who are the people living primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China or Eastern Turkistan which has been fight against Chinese government and led to the unpleasant situations for them to stay in their hometown. This article will debate on the questions of what are the statuses and the migrant triggers of Muslim refugees in Thailand. Why do their hopes turn out to be miserable? How does the human trafficking’s network have expanded? And, what are the existing challenges and obstructs towards these refugees? After all, the possibility to settle the emerging problem could be turned up or not? These questions will be analyzed based on the real sample cases with the concept of universal human rights towards refugees.