Migration in the Para-State Regions of the Mekong Region: Between the National and International Realms

I’m due (floods permitting) to fly to Singapore tomorrow to present:

Walsh, John, “Migration in the Para-State Regions of the Mekong Region: Between the National and International Realms,” paper to be presented at the workshop Crossing Borders, Traversing Boundaries: Bridging the Gap between International and Internal Migration Research and Theory (Asia Research Institute, NUS, Singapore: October 13th-14th, 2011).


As Chinese investment in the Mekong Region (Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand) has increased, some of the geographical space occupied by new projects has come to be considered, more or less officially, to have become delinked from the rest of the sovereign territory of the state. The first example of this was the Maoist strategy of certain ethnic minority groups in Myanmar who have created what are effectively parallel states within the official state, together with the paraphernalia of rival state governance. The second example involves cash economy semi-legal operations such as the Poipet casino on the Thai-Cambodian border, in which a form of cowboy capitalism is operated by extra-judicial individuals and groups. The third example is the occupation of land in northern Laos and around Mandalay in northern Myanmar, where the density of international operations means the major players in this sector become empowered to make state-level decisions when the official state lacks the capacity or willingness to intervene or to uphold the rule of law. These para-state areas offer a conjunction between national and international migration as workers are drawn to the emergent industrial and service sector activities within them and contend with an absence as much as a multiplicity of labour protection regulations and regimes. Influential local leaders and organizations tend to shape the conditions of work and the means of hiring and dismissing workers with little regard to external norms. This paper examines through the use of thick description of existing events and observations the ways in which new and mostly porous borders have been created in addition to official state borders and the implications these have for the migration patterns and aspirations of workers. This provides a link between the national and the international realms of migration.

The full text should be on line after the conference begins. If anyone is really desperate to see the paper before that, then kindly let me know and I will see what I can do.


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