Ashes of co-optation: from armed group fragmentation to the rebuilding of popular insurgency in Myanmar

Brenner, David. 2015. Ashes of co-optation: from armed group fragmentation to the rebuilding of popular insurgency in Myanmar. Conflict, Security & Development, 15(4), pp. 337-358. ISSN 1467-8802 [Article]

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This article argues that attempts to buy insurgency out of violence can achieve temporary stability but risk producing new conflict. While co-optation with economic incentives might work in parts of a movement, it can spark ripple effects in others. These unanticipated developments result from the interactions of differently situated elite and non-elite actors, which can create a momentum of their own in driving collective behaviour. This article develops this argument by analysing the re-escalation of armed conflict between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and Myanmar's armed forces after a 17-year-long ceasefire broke down in 2011. After years of mutual enrichment and collaboration between rebel and state elites and near organisational collapse, the insurgency's new-found resolve and capacity is particularly puzzling. Based on extensive field research, this article explains why and how the state's attempt to co-opt rebel leaders with economic incentives resulted in group fragmentation, loss of leadership legitimacy, increased factional contestation, growing resentment among local communities and the movement's rank and file and ultimately the rebuilding of popular resistance from within.

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19 June 2015Accepted
3 August 2015Published Online

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Date Deposited:

28 Sep 2018 15:00

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:53

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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