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Strategic Violence during Democratization: Evidence from Myanmar

  • Darin Christensen (a1), Mai Nguyen (a2) and Renard Sexton (a3)

Abstract

Democratic transitions are often followed by conflict. This article explores one explanation: the military’s strategic use of violence to retain control of economically valuable regions. The authors uncover this dynamic in Myanmar, a country transitioning from four decades of military rule. Fearing that the new civilian government will assert authority over jade mining, the military initiated violence in mining townships. Using geocoded data on conflict and jade mines, the authors find evidence for this strategic use of violence. As Myanmar started to transition in 2011, conflicts instigated by the military in jademining areas sharply rose. The article also addresses alternative explanations, including a shift in the military’s strategy, colocation of mines and military headquarters, commodity prices, opposition to a controversial dam, and trends specific to Kachin State. With implications beyond Myanmar, the authors argue that outgoing generals can use instability to retain rents where plausible challengers to state authority provide a pretense for violence.

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