Published in Development Zones in Asian Borderlands.

By Patrick Meehan, Sai Aung Hla and Sai Kham Phu.

Since the late 1980s, borderland regions across Southeast Asia have increasingly been reimagined as zones of economic opportunity that have the potential to stimulate national and regional development. Development discourses have promoted the “opening up” of “marginal” spaces to markets and capital alongside political projects aimed at consolidating state control over territories where the reach of the state has historically been weak and contested.

Borderlands have become the subject of concerted efforts by national governments to expand cross-border flows of trade and investment and convert borderland spaces into sites of resource extraction and production (Barney 2009; Eilenberg 2012; Eilenberg 2014; Nyíri 2012; Taylor 2016; Woods 2011; van Schendel and de Maaker 2014).

However, in many parts of Southeast Asia the rise of borderland development zones is being mapped onto long-standing histories of unresolved armed conflict, fragmented sovereignty, and illegal cross-border flows.

How are development zones “made” in conflict-affected borderlands? What forms of territorialisation underpin the making of development zones in these contested spaces? What forms of public authority emerge to govern borderland development zones and whose interests do they serve? And how do long-standing histories of illicit border trade, fragmented sovereignty, and unresolved armed conflicts shape governance structures and everyday life in these development zones?