Ocean and land control-grabbing: The political economy of landscape transformation in Northern Tanintharyi, Myanmar

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 12:45pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2019
Date published: 07/2019
Authors: Mads Barbesgaard
Journal title: Journal of Rural Studies
Volume: 69
Pages: 195 - 203
ISSN: 07430167

After a spout of optimism surrounding Myanmar's so-called democratic transition in the post-2010 period, civil-society organisations and academics are beginning to highlight rampant and violent resource grabs unfolding across the country. Delving into the Northern Tanintharyi landscape in the Southeast, this article aims to understand interrelated dynamics of coastal and agrarian transformation during the state-mediated capitalist transition of the past 30 years. Conceptually developing a landscape-approach that sees individual ‘grabs’ in a relational manner and as part of broader political-economic struggles, the article shows how the Myanmar military regime sought a conjoined ocean and land control-grab in pursuit of rent extraction from productive foreign capital in fisheries and off-shore gas sectors. Empirically, these dynamics are traced from the scale of regional geopolitical struggles down to two particular villages in Northern Tanintharyi – highlighting resulting processes of differentiation along lines of class and gender. This conceptual framework and explanation of drivers behind ocean and land control-grabbing, in turn, complicates prevalent policy solutions in Myanmar (and elsewhere) that reduce the question of resolving resource-grabs to the pursuit of an elusive ‘good governance’.

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