Myanmar and the Border Economies, Geographical Adjustments and Supra-national Mobility of the Upper Mekong Region | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


In the Upper Mekong region of Southeast Asia, border territories not only delineate the extent of the governing authorities’ resources and investments, but also function as mobility resources for the people who approach, dwell within, transit, and flee them, and for whom such territories provide platforms for migration and re-settlements. In the Myanmar crisis, these transboundary areas continue to be used in particular ways by political and economic elites and in different ways by those dwelling, working, and moving or fleeing within them. On the mega-level, this border fluidity has followed the geographical adjustments of trade zones and connectivity projects, but also the political fortunes of the authorities and elites who attempt to capture them. Thus while national and internal border territories from Kunming to Mandalay, Chiang Mai and Oudomxay have long moved with the economic, political, and quasi-political authority of national and supranational investors, they also overlap with and diverge from the spheres of activity of local populations moving within them who provide not only labor and local markets, but now political resistance. The less-known cross-border territories encompassing their micro-economies and socio-ecological livelihood alternatives are similarly fluid and eventually more significant, as will be shown here. In addition to the negative impacts on the region’s financial and communications sectors, the major factor affecting the Upper Mekong in 2021 is the outflux of people fleeing Myanmar. This paper looks at both investors’ and local populations’ post-crisis spheres of mobility within the region, and the regional adjustments that are resulting.


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