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Khemanitthathai, Sirada (2022) Emigration State in Transition: Foreign policy goals in Myanmar’s emigration policies and practices. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis demonstrates how migration constitutes a salient element of both Myanmar’s foreign policy goals and its relations with foreign receiving states. It examines the implications of Myanmar’s migration policies and practices by focusing on two aspects: firstly, it considers ethnic politics in relation to Myanmar’s core foreign policy goals, and secondly, it analyses the shifts in Myanmar’s emigration policies in response to receiving states and the international community. The study employs qualitative research methods by collecting data from semi-structured interviews with migration-related government officers, non-governmental agencies and international organisations. These were conducted during the fieldwork in Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. The study is also based on the analysis of primary material, such as archival documents and media coverage, and secondary materials. Using a within-case comparative approach, this thesis inductively illustrates how the military regime, which ruled Myanmar up to 2010, and the quasi-civilian governments, which began in 2011, utilised international labour migration to signal their demands in foreign relations. This thesis applies a state-centric ontology to investigate state behaviour in the wider context of international migration. This thesis does not intend to contest existing migration studies on Myanmar, but to extend the field of migration studies by including foreign policy analysis in the study. This thesis argues that Myanmar’s emigration policies and practices, including its refusal to act in certain situations, serve the country’s foreign policy objectives, which are highly influenced by the domestic political landscape. Myanmar’s ethnic politics is the main foreign policy imperative behind its various responses on international migration vis-a-vis different receiving countries, namely Thailand and Malaysia. Myanmar employs restrictive emigration policies and practices against receiving states when they intervene with Myanmar’s ethnic politics. By contrast, Myanmar utilises permissive emigration policies toward receiving states that maintain neutrality on Myanmar’s ethnic politics. Moreover, the political transition from a military regime to a quasi-civilian regime also shaped the government’s stance in emigration policies. Before the regime changed in 2011, the fully authoritarian government prioritised domestic ethnic politics as the sole foreign policy goal in the implementation of emigration policies. However, the hybrid regime that came to power in 2011 has aligned more with international norms while preserving the core political goal of maintaining the continuity of the old establishment. As a result, Myanmar’s migration policies continue corresponded with and are used as a tool in its foreign policy, even as it has shifted as a result of regime transformation.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Kristin Surak
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 31 May 2022 10:01
Funders: Other

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