Myanmar’s Peace Process (Part III)

« Myanmar’s Peace Process: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, Borderland Economies, Service Delivery, and other Post-Panglong Concerns » (Part III) by Bobby Anderson, 25/08/2017, Tea Circle (Oxford)

DDR processes are only one aspect of the state building process that will need to occur in EAO areas; durable peace will only arrive when communities in EAO areas discern value in citizenship, and so a distrusted state must deliver health, education, and other services, and offer impartial protections, including the provision of land tenure. Education is particularly important: successful reintegration and enhanced livelihood security in EAO areas are fundamentally a question of human resources, the foundation of which is public schools. Across Myanmar, the educational system is in need of repair, and this is doubly so in many EAO areas. Education is supposed to create citizens as well as workers literate in a common language. A lack of vocational and technical training centers, not only in areas accessible to EAO populations, but in Myanmar as a whole, is also an urgent issue. These matters warrant much greater exploration— exploration that is beyond the scope of this analysis, however.  Afghanistan amply demonstrates how both DDR and alternative livelihood programs fail when they are standalone programs occurring in areas lacking the administrative, service-oriented, and coercive presence of the state. 

The process of state building in insurgent areas will occur through an inflow of Bamar civil servants into these areas to deliver services, and this will also lead to resentment. As a rule of thumb, many EAO host populations will not possess the requisite human resource capacity to completely staff education, health, and general administrative posts. Business and capital, some of it exploitative, will follow. Migrants historically dominate local markets in newly colonized areas; Chinese already play this role in Kachin, while Naga markets in Northeast India are dominated by Marwaris and Biharis, and Han Chinese in Tibet. This can also cynically play into conflict resolution efforts, if it gives struggling ex-EAOs entities to levy extra legal taxes on.

Myanmar’s ethnic minorities—and for that matter, China’s Tibetans, Indonesia’s highland Papuans, Thailand’s hill tribes, and others—know that uncontrolled in-migration will reduce them to minorities, with their cultures and lands subsumed by newcomers. James C Scott’s engulfment— defined as the settlement of loyal (read: docile) populations with an existing “national” identity in areas where such identity was lacking among indigenous peoples— may occur as a part of an unstated but overarching government strategy to dilute the concentration of peoples with separatist tendencies in sensitive areas.

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