Following 10 years of gradual progress on political and economic liberalization—and a landslide victory for the NLD in the 2020 election—the Burmese army took power in a coup on February 1, 2021, just hours before the newly elected members of Parliament were set to convene. The army has quickly reversed hard-won progress toward democracy and human rights in Burma. It has arrested elected officials, activists, and journalists, done away with even the most basic civil and political rights, blocked access to social media, and, intermittently, to the internet entirely.

USIP’s Work

Since 2012, USIP has supported locally driven efforts that help resolve conflicts in nonviolent ways, build support for a more inclusive national identity, promote democratic norms, and increase understanding among policymakers, practitioners, and the public about key conflict dynamics in Burma. USIP’s recent work includes:

Peace Education

Since 2017, USIP’s Peace Education program has worked with faith-based organizations from Burma’s four largest religious groups to train students, teachers, government staff, and community leaders on methods to resolve conflict in nonviolent ways. In addition to learning core peacebuilding skills, training participants explore the way in which national identity affects conflict dynamics. USIP and its partners have trained more than 2,000 individuals from every state and region through 43 peace education trainings in which every major religious group was represented and 57% of participants were women. A recent evaluation revealed that the program reduced negative intergroup stereotypes, increased intergroup affinity, built practical peacebuilding skills, and facilitated productive new linkages between interfaith peacebuilders.

Investment and Conflict

USIP conducts research and analysis that seeks to understand the conflict implications of investment in Burma and supports projects that strengthen the capacity of civil society and communities to assert their interests around investment projects. Recent analysis considers the effect of Chinese investments in Karen State and the involvement of the military and its border guard forces in introducing Chinese transnational criminal actors into the Chinese and Thai border lands.

Promoting Independent Research and Analysis

USIP publishes research that aims to better understand the underlying drivers of conflict in Burma and explores methods to address these drivers. Following the military coup, USIP will shift its focus to research that strengthens community resilience in the face of brutal atrocities committed by the illegitimate coup government—as well as analysis that studies the illicit economy and its role in violent conflict, identifies new avenues towards an effective peace process, and helps those struggling to restore democracy to build a more inclusive national identity


Burma evening

USIP held a writing competition in late 2020 in which more than 4,000 authors from across the country submitted work. On the International Day of Peace, the winners were announced and the winning authors read their work, each offering an intimate view into the experiences of those affected by conflict and their vision for a more peaceful future.

Related Publications

Myanmar Coup Weakens Southeast Asia Security and Cooperation

Myanmar Coup Weakens Southeast Asia Security and Cooperation

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

By: Brian Harding; Jason Tower

Southeast Asian governments have reacted to the coup in Myanmar in diverse ways that reflect divergent interests. Some, such as Singapore, have condemned the generals’ violence against anti-coup protesters. Others, including Vietnam, have strategic concerns behind their limited willingness to speak out. Cambodia may believe it benefits from the takeover as international attention shifts to Myanmar. They can all agree, though, that fallout from the coup is damaging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a time when the broader regional order is in flux.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

China’s High-Stakes Calculations in Myanmar

China’s High-Stakes Calculations in Myanmar

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

By: Jason Tower

The ultimate outcome of Myanmar’s nine-week-old coup will affect a range of international actors — but none more than China. As Asia’s greatest power, China has strategic and economic stakes in its neighbor to the south that leave little space for genuine neutrality behind a façade of non-interference. Since February 1, Beijing has profoundly shaped the trajectory of post-coup violence and blocked international efforts to restore stability.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

Myanmar in the Streets: A Nonviolent Movement Shows Staying Power

Myanmar in the Streets: A Nonviolent Movement Shows Staying Power

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

By: Zarchi Oo; Billy Ford; Jonathan Pinckney

The people of Myanmar have opposed military rule in the past but never like this: In the face of horrific brutality by a lawless regime, Burmese have risen up in an historic national movement of nonviolent resistance. Led by young women, the fractious country has united across ethnic, generational and class lines, weaponizing social norms and social media in a refusal to accept the generals’ February 1 seizure of power.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

Myanmar Coup: The International Shockwaves Have Just Begun

Myanmar Coup: The International Shockwaves Have Just Begun

Thursday, March 18, 2021

By: Jason Tower

Myanmar has collapsed into horrific violence since the military sought to retake full control of the country on February 1. Western governments have watched in distress as soldiers rounded up civilian leaders including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, restricted internet access, rolled back individual freedoms and ultimately employed violence against the people. These domestic effects of the coup have been widely noted. USIP’s Jason Tower examines here the less discussed international security repercussions, the response of regional actors and options for preventing mass atrocities in the coming weeks.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications