“The Forging of Legitimate Authority in the Ceasefire Mixed-control Karen Areas of Myanmar” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1887321) by SiuSue Mark, an independent scholar based in New York.
This article investigates how legitimate authority is forged in a tenuous ceasefire context by looking at how communities navigate dual administration by both the Government of Myanmar and the armed group, the Karen National Union (KNU), to secure access to land and forests. The findings identify two factors crucial to forging legitimate authority among civilians in mixed-control areas: ideological identification with authorities and authorities’ ability to fulfil their followers’ basic material needs. The findings show that although the government is in close competition with the KNU in providing for people’s material welfare in these areas, the KNU has an advantage in the ideological dimensions of legitimacy. The findings reinforce a broader idea that has become more commonplace in development thinking – that in order to make political settlements more conflict-sensitive and relevant to the lived realities of people impacted by armed conflict, state-building and peace-building must prioritise the governance preferences of local communities.