Young soldiers of the Kachin Independence Army - photo by David Brenner


Armed Groups, State and Society in Myanmar

Hosted by Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre in collaboration with the LSE Global South Unit

Room G.01, Tower 1 (TW1)


Dr David Brenner

Dr David Brenner

John Buchanan

John Buchanan

Dr Patrick Meehan

Dr Patrick Meehan

Ja Htoi Pan

Ja Htoi Pan

Martin Smith

Martin Smith


Dr Jürgen Haacke

Dr Jürgen Haacke

Myanmar’s borderlands have experienced armed conflict ever since the country’s independence in 1948. Attempts by successive military governments to secure control over these contested areas, and the willingness to deploy military force to achieve this ambition, have fuelled longstanding grievances against central state authority. Against this backdrop of decades-long ethnonational conflict, the country’s borderland regions have given birth to a dazzling array of non-state armed groups, including insurgencies, militias, vigilantes, and criminal networks. They are part of a fragmented and multi-layered landscape of political order, which also includes semi-autonomous army commands, transnational business actors and other informal institutions. Based on years of extensive field work in the border areas of Myanmar, the speakers will discuss the dynamics of armed politics, social orders and state formation in light of the country's peace process and wider transition.

David Brenner is Lecturer in International Relations at the Department of Politics, University of Surrey, and an Associate Fellow at the LSE Global South Unit. David's current research interests in Myanmar include the social dynamics of insurgency and political violence, ethno-nationalism and communal conflict, (non-)state formation in contested borderlands and revolutionary art forms.

John Buchanan is the Director of Communications at the Institute for Strategy & Policy - Myanmar. John's publications include Militias in Myanmar for the Asia Foundation, and he has recently completed a PhD at the University of Washington examining the role played by local strongmen in Burma's Shan State. 

Patrick Meehan is a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS University of London. Patrick's work explores the political economy of drugs and violent conflict surrounding processes of state-building and economic development in borderland and frontier regions, with a primary focus on Myanmar’s borderlands with China and Thailand. 

Ja Htoi Pan is Associate Director of the Kachinland Research Center in Myitkyina.  She is a trained Anthropologist with many years of experience researching on conflict and its relation to social issues in Myanmar. Ja Htoi is currently studying for a MSc in Social Anthropology (Learning and Cognition) as a Chevening Scholar at the LSE. 

Martin Smith is author of Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity (Zed Books), Ethnic Groups in Burma: Development, Democracy and Human Rights (ASI) and State of Strife: The Dynamics of Ethnic Conflict in Burma (East-West Center Washington). He was an independent expert member of the former Three Diseases Fund Board and is currently a trustee of the Prospect Burma education trust and senior advisor to the Transnational Institute.

Jürgen Haacke is Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, within the Institute of Global Affairs, and Associate Professor of International Relations.

The Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre (SEAC) is a cross-disciplinary, regionally-focused academic centre within the Institute of Global Affairs at LSE.

The LSE Global South Unit  (GSU) is a research and teaching initiative based in the LSE Department of International Relations. It is a decentralised ideas hub aimed at investigating the changing role of the South in shaping the global order.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSEMyanmar

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