Billy Ford is a program officer for the Burma team at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Ford joined USIP in 2019 after having held positions with The Asia Foundation, Freedom House, and numerous Burmese organizations. 

At The Asia Foundation, he worked on municipal governance reform and led the production of the City Life Survey, which is one of Burma’s largest public perception surveys. Ford spent two years in Burma as Freedom House’s first country representative, where he oversaw programs to support human rights defenders and human rights-oriented think tanks. He has also conducted research on land governance in Burma for the Tharti Myay Foundation and the Global Justice Center. In addition to spending two years in Burma, Ford lived for a year in Vietnam, where he studied Buddhism, and a year in Malaysia as a Fulbright Fellow. 

Ford’s work at USIP focuses on economics and peacebuilding, intergroup bias reduction, religion and conflict, and program evaluation. He leads efforts on the Burma team to optimize program implementation through the use of technology and creative management practices. He is intimately involved in program monitoring and evaluation, including efforts to explore experimental and quasi-experimental methods to measure the effect of USIP’s programs.  

Ford holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Hamilton College.

Publications By Billy

To Build a Unified Resistance and Democratic Myanmar, Discrimination Must End

To Build a Unified Resistance and Democratic Myanmar, Discrimination Must End

Thursday, September 8, 2022

By: Billy Ford;  Aung Ko Ko

Early on the morning of Myanmar’s February 2021 coup, Mya Aye, a prominent Muslim activist, was one of the first arrested by the new junta regime. Since then, thousands more have been imprisoned or killed by the regime, including dozens of Muslims, like prominent student leader Wai Moe Naing, and other marginalized minorities who have fought against the military junta alongside other ethnic and religious groups. Although the resistance shares a common enemy in the brutal junta, it has yet to fully embrace a vision for a more inclusive country that overcomes Myanmar’s legacy of ethnic and religious discrimination. To broaden its base of support domestically and internationally, resistance leaders should commit to address structural discrimination against minorities in Myanmar.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceHuman Rights

Why Myanmar’s Desperate Generals Executed Prominent Pro-Democracy Figures

Why Myanmar’s Desperate Generals Executed Prominent Pro-Democracy Figures

Thursday, July 28, 2022

By: Priscilla A. Clapp;  Billy Ford;  Jason Tower

From virtually the moment Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government last year, the generals have faced a popular uprising that they met with escalating brutality. Even so, their decision last week to put to death — by hanging — four high-profile democracy advocates sparked shock and outrage at home and around the world. USIP’s Jason Tower, Priscilla Clapp and Billy Ford discuss what is behind the coup regime’s bloody move and its implications for Myanmar and international efforts to bring peace and democracy to the Southeast Asian country.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

As Myanmar Coup Spurs National Resistance, a Unified Nation Could Emerge

As Myanmar Coup Spurs National Resistance, a Unified Nation Could Emerge

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

By: Aye Chan;  Billy Ford

The military’s coup in Myanmar has been a tragedy in every respect but one: It is increasingly clear that the generals’ power grab and bloody repression have united Myanmar’s diverse — and often adverse — ethnic and political groups to resist a common enemy and seek a better future. Ironically, the army, which has argued since independence that it alone can hold the country together, has inadvertently spurred a revolutionary and irreversible nation-building dialogue aimed at creating a federal democratic system and more inclusive national identity. The National Unity Consultative Committee, the platform for this dialogue, may be slow, complex and contentious, but its participants stay at the table for one reason: It offers the best opportunity to escape Myanmar’s vicious cycle of violence and authoritarian rule.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Myanmar Coup: Military Regime Seeks to Weaponize Religion

Myanmar Coup: Military Regime Seeks to Weaponize Religion

Thursday, December 16, 2021

By: Billy Ford;  Zarchi Oo

Ten months have passed since Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s elected government, and by now it’s apparent that arrests, executions, torture and financial pressures will not pacify a population unwilling to be ruled by generals. So, the coup’s leader, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, is seeking to recast himself through military-controlled media. Rather than an autocrat who overturned the popular will, he portrays himself as the next in a long line of just and honorable Buddhist warrior-kings, monarchs who protected Buddhism from public apathy and external threats. The military is hoping that a barrage of religious propaganda can accomplish what force and violence have not. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Religion

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