On December 6, 1904 the present international border between Laos and Cambodia was unilaterally established when the French colonial government extracted Stung Treng Province from Laos and transferred it to Cambodia. The ethnic Brao people living in the border region were not well known to the French, and in any case, their views were not deemed important. But since then the Brao have utilised this state administrative boundary in ways not intended by its designers, or governments since then, to give them more power to create new spaces. When conditions in Cambodia have been deemed unfavourable, the Brao have often crossed into Laos, and similarly, when circumstances have been less advantageous in Laos they have moved to Cambodia. This paper traces the history of the Brao as it specifically relates to the international border between Laos and Cambodia. While this administrative boundary was created to help national governments keep populations confined within nation-states, Brao human agency has sometimes confounded these efforts, through transforming its significance and role. The boundary has separated Brao populations in ways that are sometimes upsetting to them, but it has also allowed the Brao to position themselves at the margins of different nation-states, in spaces where they have been able to, at least temporarily, avoid or reduce state control over them. These are not non-state spaces
they are fundamentally constituted by a state-established boundary, even if the Brao have been able to mobilise this resource to empower themselves, and sometimes to resist the state itself.