Dr. Kwanchewan Buadaeng is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology-Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University. She graduated from University of Sydney with a Ph.D. thesis entitled “Negotiating Religious Practices in a Changing Sgaw Karen Community in North Thailand.” Her research interests focus on ethno-religious identities of the Karen and other ethnic peoples in northern Thailand and on both sides of the Thailand-Myanmar border. Her recent research projects include “Buddhist Networks transcending national boundaries amongst the Karen peoples in the Thai-Burmese Borderlands” (2016) and Karen Armed Organizations: Peace Making and Thai-Myanmar Border Economic Development” (2017)

Project Summary

Reconstructing Ethno-Religious Identities of Karen People at Thailand-Myanmar Borderland

This project aims to explore the ways in which Karen ethnic people reconstruct their ethnic-religious boundaries in the context of political and economic transformations in the borderlands. The Karen people in this area have formed or participated in, many religious cults – Leke, Talaku, Myitta Byamazoe and others – to demonstrate that their politically neutral identity is different from those of the ethno-nationalist secessionist groups that have fought with the Burmese army for more than half a century. However recent economic development schemes which have engendered, both more resources competition, as well as transnational migration, have affected the existence of these Karen cults, given that they are based on communal relations. As a consequence, there is an ongoing reconstruction of new ethno-religious boundaries. Field research will be conducted in the border towns of Western Thailand and the Karen State of Myanmar, by interviewing key persons from different Karen religious cults, Thai and Myanmar officials and business agencies.