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Peri-conflict peace: brokerage, development and illiberal ceasefires in Myanmar’s borderlands

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 16:30 authored by McCarthy, G, Nicholas FarrellyNicholas Farrelly

Successive Myanmar governments have enlisted illiberal means in attempts to end the world’s oldest civil wars. Since the 1990s, state-led attempts at peace-building have offered ethnic armed groups limited political autonomy or institutional recognition. Many of the 1990s ceasefire agreements, and the new wave agreed since the transition to partial civilian rule in 2011, have instead sought to erode insurgent legitimacy and control over local populations through encroachment of state-led development initiatives and elite resource extraction rackets into restive regions. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork conducted during periods of ceasefire in Kachin (1994–2011) and Karen States (2012–2019), this article explores how illiberal peace-building has inflamed tensions between ‘insurgent social order’ and the central state over who and how development is brokered and delivered. While illiberal peace sustains economic and political activity, attempts by the central state to cut insurgent social order out from the mediation and regulation of public goods can provoke intense grassroots conflict within insurgent groups and with the state. Violence looms as a proximate possibility in these contexts despite elite ceasefire, creating what we term ‘peri-conflict’ peace.


Publication title

Conflict, Security & Development








School of Social Sciences



Place of publication

United Kingdom

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Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Political systems