Business and Bludgeon at the Border: a Transnational Political Economy of Human Displacement in Thailand and Burma

Transnational economic integration between Thailand and Burma is intimately linked to protection for Burmese refugees in Thailand. In the case of Burmese nationals who seek safety in Thailand, their protection becomes more negotiable as economic integration with Thailand proceeds. Since 1988, hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens have fled beyond the borders of their state, fearing both human rights abuses and successive offensives by a military junta intent on its own survival. Critical analysis of the dynamic of human displacement and bi-national economic cooperation between the governments of Thailand Burma grounds this study. The story is one of transnational trade across one border, where people’s labour, homes, and passports are exchanged – in an obscured fashion – for investment, natural resources, and economic cooperation. The Thai-Burmese border proves to be a flexible concept that can be invoked to produce refugees or blurred to promote binational economic infrastructure and trade. Despite economic booms and busts in Southeast Asia, economic integration in the region is on-going. At the same time, Burma’s government – the State Peace and Development Council – and its military force more and more citizens into neighbouring countries. Their reception in Thailand, however, is increasingly chilly. en

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