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“Myanmar’s Resistance and the Future of Border Trade: Challenges and Opportunities” by Jared Bissinger


• Since the start of Operation 1027, Myanmar’s resistance groups have gained control over large parts of key overland trade routes and a number of important border crossings, fundamentally changing the realities in the control of border trade.

• Despite these losses, the State Administration Council (SAC) retains control-of-trade-related institutions that are vital for accessing an international trading system characterized by state-to-state interactions—giving them significant influence over trade even if they do not control trade routes and border crossings.

• International precedents from territories such as Palestine, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia show that non-state actors face significant challenges engaging in trade, and are vulnerable to frequent changes in trading arrangements. Perhaps the most important factor shaping trade in these territories is the state of their relationship with either the state of which they are nominally a part, or a neighbouring state.

• Thailand allows small-scale trade and limited movement of people through “checkpoints for border trade”, which exist outside the formal system and are unilaterally established by Thailand. These checkpoints represent an alternative opportunity to reshape border trade.

• If Myanmar’s resistance hopes to transform trade from a revenue source to a meaningful strength, their prospects are best if they collaborate and develop a status-neutral plan (e.g., not requiring diplomatic recognition nor denying recognition to the SAC) for trading arrangements with neighbours, and enhance dialogue with them about this plan.

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024/11, April 2024

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