- War and Peace in the Borderlands of Myanmar: The Kachin Ceasefire, 1994–2011 ed. by Mandy Sadan
In 2011, as a new, semi-civilian government came to power after decades of military dictatorship in the country, a ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar Armed Forces, or Tatmadaw, collapsed after seventeen years. Instead of considering this collapse as a single, sudden event, this book—the product of a seminar held at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 2013—proposes to contextualize it as part of a long historical continuum.
Fascinating, multifaceted and authoritative, this book will be warmly welcomed by readers seeking a deep understanding of the political, social and economic dimensions underlying the conflict between the KIA and the Myanmar state. No writer has probed the unhealed wounds of the Kachin people's long history with more subtlety and rigour than the volume's editor, Mandy Sadan, an established authority on social and cultural aspects of the Kachin history. Through various perspectives, the contributing authors demonstrate that the collapse of the ceasefire resulted from a multifaceted deterioration of the situation in Kachin State and that it had become inevitable, at least from the Kachin perspective, by the time that it occurred.
The first part of the book focuses on historical perspectives. It includes a chapter co-authored by the editor and Robert Anderson examining the conflict in long-term perspective. Martin Smith then [End Page 214] provides a reflection on the mistrust felt by Kachin leaders and the challenges faced by peace negotiators during the 1990s. The following section of the book focuses on political economy, with Lee Jones describing the economic dimension of state building in ceasefire areas and Kevin Woods elaborating on his notion of "ceasefire capitalism" (p. 166). Woods explores the ways in which Kachin and Bamar elites collaborated economically and thus participated in the extension of the state into border areas. The next two chapters explore cross-border diplomacy with China. Han Henze looks at the diplomatic dynamics and power relations with the Chinese neighbour, while Ho Ts'ui-p'ing considers dynamics at the community level through the Chinese incarnation of the Manau festival. The following chapters deal with the cultural intimacies of nationalism. Laur Kiik looks into the narratives of Kachin nationalism, while Jenny Hedstrom focuses on the perspective of female KIA soldiers. Helen Mears's contribution treats the counter-narrative developed in calendars to emphasize the role of the new print culture and its impact on the representation of the Kachin ethno-political identity.
The third—less academic but more original—section of the book gathers personal experiences and narratives of the armed peace. Nhkum Bu Lu provides a poignant illustration of the impact of conflict on her life. Hkanhpa Tu Sadan writes about the politicization of Kachin Students. And Duwa Mahkaw Hkun Sa details the founding and development of Kachin nationalist networks in the diaspora. The final section of the book provides perspectives drawn from knowledge of other ceasefires in Myanmar and neighbouring areas. Patrick Meehan explains the anatomy of the Palaung ceasefire with the Tatmadaw, while Mikael Gravers examines the Karen case with a focus on the complexity of fragmented internal views. Reshmi Banerjee looks at the lessons learnt in Northeast India, where she places the roots of conflict in the issue of land ownership. Joy L. Pachau's and Mandy Sadan's chapter focuses on the Mizo peace accord, and the process of memorialization. Finally, Matthew J. Walton's conclusion draws the lessons learnt from the preceding [End Page 215] contributions to the book, including the role of trust and the importance of local perceptions.
One of the essential strengths of this book lies in the diverse background of its contributors. They hail from various geographic areas—from Estonia to Taiwan and across the Kachin diaspora— and with a range of expertise; some contributors are academics, and others are better described as activists. Through these varied perspectives, the book clearly demonstrates the obvious consistencies in Kachin...