The Quest for Peace in Kawthoolei: The Strategies, Outcomes, and Sustainability of Peacebuilding in Southeast Myanmar, 2012-2020

Master Thesis

Kwe Moo Kham, Klo (2021) The Quest for Peace in Kawthoolei: The Strategies, Outcomes, and Sustainability of Peacebuilding in Southeast Myanmar, 2012-2020. MA thesis, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Oslo.

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​Amidst the continuing uncertainties that followed the recent military coup in Myanmar, this research takes a step back and critically investigates parts of the peacebuilding efforts of the past decade. More specifically, it looks into the local dynamics of peacebuilding between the State of Myanmar and the Karen National Union (KNU) in the security, governance, and development sectors in southeastern Myanmar, a region locally known to Karen people as Kawthoolei. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with key Karen actors, including military and political leaders of KNU, and on an extensive review of document sources, the research observes that a slow and hidden continuation of war by other means had persisted in Kawthoolei throughout the 2010s. That is, rather than conflict resolution, it finds that the Burmese military-led peacebuilding has in its fundamental been a process of conflict containment. Among other ways, by waging a silent war in KNU’s last stronghold, by expanding and cementing its civilian state structures into ethnic Karen areas, and by opening the former combat zones to the market forces, the state has sought to achieve hegemonic territorial, political, and economic control over the region. The form of peace achieved has been one of negative character, where the underlying causes of the conflict remained unresolved, but one that has also been constantly contested and reshaped due to the state’s multisectoral encroachments on Karen territories. As the “peacebuilding" in this context has come to mean conflict containment, its potential to produce a sustainable peace remains limited.

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