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Commodifying Sovereignty: Special Economic Zone and the Neoliberalization of the Lao Frontier

Laos has followed its Chinese neighbor in creating the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as part of the new economic engine that allows distinctive economic policies and flexible governmental measures conducive to doing business in certain areas of the country. SEZs in Laos operate as one form of self-imposed extraterritoriality tailored to foreign investors especially the Chinese. Vast areas of local land have been turned into entertainment and tourist complex. This paper uses the case of the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone to examine the paradox between the desire to civilize and the will to survive played out in the border zone of northern Lao PDR. It investigates the means and mechanism that facilitate the process of the civilizing mission by the Chinese investor. Commodifying sovereignty has contributed to the creation of the space of exception necessary for the new economic possibilities to reshape the wild zone and its people into a productive resource. Negotiation and reluctance by the Lao villagers to participate in the new economic enterprise has kept them in the state of abeyance. The paper also analyzes the role of the Burmese migrant workers as the key actor --the neo-liberal subjects that help make the Chinese civilizing mission possible.

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Additional Info

Field Value
Document type Reports, journal articles, and research papers (including theses and dissertations)
Language of document
  • English
  • Economy and commerce
  • Special economic zones
Geographic area (spatial range)
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
Copyright Yes
Version / Edition 1
License Creative Commons Attribution
Author (individual) Pinkaew Laungaramsri
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan, New York
Publication date 2015
Pagination 28
Date uploaded May 20, 2019, 07:16 (UTC)
Date modified November 29, 2019, 06:34 (UTC)