UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Roadmap to ethnic strife : economic reform in Myanmar and enduring conflict in the Kachin region McLeod, Kevin


In 2011, fighting resumed between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar military in the Kachin region of Myanmar. This fighting came after Myanmar established and carried out its “Roadmap to Democracy,” after the new Constitution in 2008 was ratified, and after the first elections in twenty years took place. In light of these reforms, why has fighting reignited now when western observers display more optimism for the future of Myanmar than ever before? This paper intends to illustrate that the competition over access to the economic flows of the Kachin region is fuelling this eruption of military conflict. What is more, Myanmar’s economic transition to a liberalized economy favours persistent tensions in the Kachin province. Since the rapid economic liberalisation of the Myanmar economy, which is a fundamental aspect of the “Roadmap to Democracy,” the Myanmar Government has begun intense exploitation of the Kachin region for its vast natural resources and trade routes. In light of its economic objectives for the Kachin region, the Myanmar Government has changed its approach towards the Kachin insurgency to instead favour the protection and exploitation of its investments. What complicates matters more is the involvement of China, who is pursuing its own objectives in the region. This conflict is now being shaped by the intricate and ever changing relations between various actors that struggle to control the empowering economic assets of the Kachin region; all of which has assured enduring tensions in the Kachin region.

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