Sai Latt (2016) – Depoliticization, Securitization and Violent Accumulation in the Integration of the Greater Mekong Sub-region



Abstract: This dissertation examines the relationship between violence and development in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) in mainland Southeast Asia…. [The] central question is why violence is inherent in development. This analysis is based on multi-sited and multi-scalar research that explores the ways violence is constituted by the entanglements of various political and socio-economic processes such as nationalist/militaristic nation-state building, insurgency movements, capitalist expansion, development projects and the securitization of borders at different sites and scales. The ethnographic research includes the experience not only of Shan in various locales, but also Myanmar soldiers, Thai bureaucrats, para-state actors, and ADB officials, all of whom, directly or indirectly enact violence on the Shan.



Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Regionalization; The Asian Development Bank (ADB); Myanmar/Burma; Violence; Securitization of Migration; Developmen

Op-Eds and Opinions on Conflict, Identity, Displacement


Selected Articles 



Peer Reviewed Journal Articles


Academic Journal Article

Latt, Sai. S. W. and Roth, Robin (2014). Agrarian Change and Ethnic Politics. Journal of Agrarian Change.

Latt, Sai. S.W. (2013). Managing Migration in the Greater Mekong Sub-region: Regulation, Extra-legal relations, ExtortionSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography. 34(1):40-56. [Best paper award by SJTG, 2014]

Latt, Sai. S.W. (2011). More than culture, gender, and class: erasing Shan labor in the “Success” of Thailand’s Royal Project. Critical Asian Studies. 43(4):531-550. [Chapter in a book available here, see Chapter 3]

Latt, Sai. S.W. (2007). Triangulating the State, Market and Society: Indonesia’s Batam Export Processing Zone. Standford Journal of East Asian Affairs, 7(1):61-70.

Working Paper

Latt, Sai. S.W. (2009). Ethnic Politics, Migrant Labour and Agrarian Transformation: A Case Study of the Hmong and Shan in a Royal Project in Northern Thailand. Working Paper No. 4, The Challenges of the Agrarian Transformation in Southeast Asia (ChATSEA). Universite` de Montreal. 25pp. [Full Text PDF]

[key words: cross border, migration, rural rural migration, agrarian change, thailand, shan, Royal Project, Hmong]

The Hmong and Shan: Ethnic Politics, Labor Restructuring and Agrarian Transformation in a Royal Upland Project in Northern Thailand


Latt, Sai. S.W. (2008). The Hmong and Shan: Ethnic politics, labour restructuring and agrarian transformation in a Royal Upland Project in Northern Thailand. MA Thesis (York University) 178 pages; AAT MR38794.


This thesis investigates how the creation of people as ‘governable subjects’ through identity construction shapes labor relations and agrarian transformation. The experiences of Hmong and Shan minority/migrant groups in a Royal Project in Northern Thailand are considered. Interviews and surveys with 40 Hmong employers and 25 Shan workers were conducted in summer 2007. The study reveals that the racialization of Hmong as ‘hill tribe’ and ‘environmental destroyers’ enables the Project to continuously introduce new kinds of agriculture such as commercial cash crops and organic farming. Likewise, the construction of Shan identity as ‘economic immigrants’ allows Hmong farmers and the Project to exploit Shan labor, which eventually facilitates agricultural changes in the area. This thesis also destabilizes the Project’s discursive ‘success’, and illustrates that it has been constructed by veiling Hmong farmers’ financial distress and Shan workers’ poverty. In addition, it argues that agrarian transformation is not necessarily about whether agriculture and agricultural labor force have declined. Instead, it could be the transformations of agricultural practices and labor relations.

(Keywords: Hmong, Shan, Ethnic Relations, Agrarian Transformation, Transnational Labor, Thailand, Burma, Royal Project, cross border migration, rural to rural migration, ethnic politics)

(Longer) Summary on New Mandala

Working Paper