The scramble for the Waste Lands: Tracking colonial legacies, counterinsurgency and international investment through the lens of land laws in Burma/Myanmar

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    Abstract

    This article traces the revenue category and legal concept of the Waste Land in Burma/Myanmar from its original application by the British colonial apparatus in the nineteenth century, to its later use in tandem with Burma Army counterinsurgent tactics starting in the 1960s, and finally to the 2012 land laws and current issues in international investment. This adaptation of colonial ideas about territorialization in the context of an ongoing civil war offers a new angle for understanding the relationship between military tactics and the political economy of conflict and counterinsurgent strategies which crucially depended on giving local militias-both government and nongovernment-high degrees of autonomy. The recent government changes, including the more civilian representation in parliament and its shift to engage with Western economies, raise questions regarding the future of the military, as well as local autonomy and the rural peasantry's access to land. As increasing numbers of international investors are poised to enter the Myanmar market, this article will revisit notions of land use and appropriation, and finally the role of the army and its changing relationship with Waste Lands.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)295-311
    JournalSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography
    Volume35
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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