Tactical dissonance

Insurgent autonomy on the Myanmar‐China border

by ANDREW ONG

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The United Wa State Army (UWSA), an insurgent polity in the highlands of the Myanmar‐China border, has kept the Myanmar state at bay for 30 years. It runs its own administration and controls its territorial boundaries, but disavows secession and independence. It parades its army and walks out of national peace talks, but pledges to defend Myanmar's sovereignty and flies the Myanmar flag. This tactical dissonance consists of oscillating political relations, in which the UWSA intermittently makes and breaks ties with the outside. It is an incongruity both mimicking and disavowing various state effects in an improvisational attempt to adopt political registers and logics that allow it to avoid state domination and express the autonomy it seeks. This relational autonomy paradoxically fosters accommodation and stability, calling into question our assumptions about rebellion, disorder, and peace amid insurgency. [autonomy, insurgency, de facto states, United Wa State Army, Wa Region, Myanmar]