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Ashes of co-optation: from armed group fragmentation to the rebuilding of popular insurgency in Myanmar

Brenner, David (2015) Ashes of co-optation: from armed group fragmentation to the rebuilding of popular insurgency in Myanmar. Conflict, Security and Development, 15 (4). pp. 337-358. ISSN 1467-8802

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Identification Number: 10.1080/14678802.2015.1071974


This article argues that attempts to buy insurgency out of violence can achieve temporary stability but risk producing new conflict. While co-optation with economic incentives might work in parts of a movement, it can spark ripple effects in others. These unanticipated developments result from the interactions of differently situated elite and non-elite actors, which can create a momentum of their own in driving collective behaviour. This article develops this argument by analysing the re-escalation of armed conflict between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and Myanmar's armed forces after a 17-year-long ceasefire broke down in 2011. After years of mutual enrichment and collaboration between rebel and state elites and near organisational collapse, the insurgency's new-found resolve and capacity is particularly puzzling. Based on extensive field research, this article explains why and how the state's attempt to co-opt rebel leaders with economic incentives resulted in group fragmentation, loss of leadership legitimacy, increased factional contestation, growing resentment among local communities and the movement's rank and file and ultimately the rebuilding of popular resistance from within.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 King’s College London
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2016 10:59
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:50

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