A landscape of ocean and land-control grabbing in Northern Tanintharyi, Myanmar
After a spout of optimism surrounding Myanmar’s so-called democratic transition in the post-2010 period, more recent work by CSOs and academics have emphasized the rampant and violent processes of land and ocean grabbing that this transition is facilitating. Drawing on a case from Northern Tanintharyi in the Southeast of the country, this article attempts to historicize contemporary accounts of these grabbing processes.
Developing a landscape-approach, it supports recent academic calls to move beyond the focus on a single resource or a single case and instead under- stand ‘grabs’ in relation to broader processes of agrarian-environmental transformations. Emphasis is placed on the ‘control-grabbing’ aspect of this ongoing transformation. The article shows how the control-grabbing of both ocean- and land-space facilitated the state’s appropriation of rent from productive capital in the fisheries and offshore gas sector, while bolstering state sovereignty over historically contested spaces. For villagers on the ground, this has had widespread ramifications, differentiated along lines of class and gender. Explaining and describing this longer-term agrarian-environmental transformation of the landscape helps to ground existing accounts of the managed nature of Myanmar’s current transition. In so doing, the article also questions the efficacy of prevailing policy proposals for how to solve the ensuing conflicts over and in the landscape.