The Thailand-Myanmar Border Areas
I became aware of the Asian Borderland Research Network (ABRN) when the second series was held in 2010, which was co-hosted by Chiang Mai University, Thailand. It was inspiring to see that the Enclosure, Interaction and Transformation theme of the conference later became the topic of my PhD.
The geographical focus of my PhD (fieldwork starting in autumn 2012) was around the Thailand-Myanmar borders. The conference allowed me to understand borderlands more broadly, and to think beyond the framework provided by fields within traditional Area Studies, such as Asian Studies and Southeast Asian Studies. I have followed the conference themes to keep abreast of scholarly trends and turns in the field of Borderland Studies. In the post-PhD period, I have maintained an active research agenda in the Thailand-Myanmar border areas, and I offer a class on Borderland Studies to undergrad students. The border between Thailand and Myanmar is currently contested, with arbitrary and unpredictable border controls in place. In these locations the local people are forced to employ adaptive strategies to survive. The ABRN conference provides a platform to present and discuss these challenges, which are a result of the disparity between state directives and ground-level operations at the border. As such, I plan to attend future conferences, in order to share my work and to listen to and network with other scholars. I believe this is important and necessary as there are many ‘live’ Asian border issues which could benefit from academic collaboration, drawing on the insights from multiple locations. For example, global phenomena such as migration flows from war-torn countries, economic repression since the early 2000s, and, more recently, Covid-19, have all had an effect on borderlands and prompted researchers to investigate their impact on people’s lives. The ABRN conference allows us to explore these global phenomena and to see how paradigms and frameworks may have shifted.
Busarin Lertchavalitsakul, Naresuan University, Thailand