A study of post-colonial statecraft in the Pa-O Self-Administered Zone in the Southern Shan State of Myanmar, 1988-2015

  • Ricky Wai Kay Yue

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Burma was already a failed state when the military seized power in 1988 after brutally quashing the democracy movement. Yet, without improving the social and economic conditions, and despite a lack of capacity and legitimacy to govern, the military regime managed to survive and hold on to power until 2015. Arguably, it continues to enjoy veto powers beyond the transfer of authority in a fragmented country that has been beleaguered by ethnic conflicts and separatism even before independence. Thus, this dissertation asks how the regime maintained control in the Pa-O Self-Administered Zone during the period 1988–2015. The aim is to identify the social control mechanism through which power originating from the state could be asserted at the village level, where the resistance took place. Social control denotes the ability of the regime to penetrate and regulate society in order to fulfil the aims of extraction and appropriation. The mechanism entails the co-optation of local warlords at one end of the control spectrum and the suppression of local resistance at the other. Co-optation at the top level and suppression at the local level are not separate social control strategies; rather, they are linked by a political economy network that redraws the lines of patron-client relations. While the political economy and patron-client relations have been altered, at the heart of the social control mechanism is the village tract system, which was sidelined during the colonial era but was reinstated under the military regime. Crucially, the village tract leaders are at the centre of the social control machine, performing the functions of penetration, regulation, extraction, and appropriation.
Date of Award31 Oct 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPak Nung Wong (Supervisor) & Scott Thomas (Advisor)


  • Pa-O
  • Social control
  • Regime survival
  • Elite accommodation
  • Village tract
  • Implementer

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