Forced migration in/of Asia: Interfaces and Kachin Internally Displaced People (IDP) at the China–Myanmar Border

Authors: Elaine Ho*, National University of Singapore
Topics: Migration, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights
Keywords: Displacement, China, Myanmar, borders, migration
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Academic, policy and media attention that focuses on the activities of the international refugee regime (IRR) in Asia tends to obscure the role of regional refugee regimes, even though they mediate how displaced people articulate aspirations for recognition, citizenship and/or international protection. Studying and grounding the interfaces at which such mediations take place redirect attention to the webs of connection and topologies of power that impact humanitarianism. The case of internal displacement at Kachin state in Myanmar draws out how interactions at the interfaces forged between different social actors and institutional regimes may at times resemble a hierarchical social order (e.g. international, national or local), but could equally traverse such hierarchies that are premised on imaginaries or actual practices of national sovereign power and, by extension, discrete local or international scales of decision-making. Since 2011, more than 120,000 Kachin people have been displaced from their villages due to renewed fighting between the Myanmar military and the separatist Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Those who tried to cross the border to reach safety in China were barred by the Chinese police. The interfaces examined here reveal the constraints posed when delivering humanitarian aid, but also signal the connections that bring together displaced populations and an array of affinity groups, while keeping in view the global power geometries through which such connections are forged. The presentation situates its analyses in wider debates on the importance of (fore)grounding the “localised” histories, sites and actions through which refugee management practices emerge in specific Asian contexts.

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