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: China, the Coup and the Future

Myanmar: China, the Coup and the Future

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

In making major deals with Myanmar’s military rulers, China seems to be violating its official guidance for investment abroad: Avoid conflict zones. Although Myanmar is in a state of collapse and widening rebellion, China continues to advance plans for a complex economic corridor in the country with the military unveiling steps to move ahead with big joint-venture projects. The generals’ bid to appear in control of things is obvious. China, on the other hand, seems to have fallen into a trap. Cozying up to the junta puts its investments at immediate and long-term risk and erodes its standing in regional organizations. To protect its interests, Beijing should press the junta to curb its rampant violence against the population and to restore the elected government.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Chaos in Myanmar Is China’s Nightmare

Chaos in Myanmar Is China’s Nightmare

Friday, May 28, 2021

By: Jason Tower; Priscilla A. Clapp

The suspicion that China approved the military coup against Myanmar’s elected government runs deep among Burmese resisting their new dictatorship. Perhaps proof of such meddling will emerge someday. For now, what seems clear is that China would not have chosen to knowingly embroil its interests in Myanmar in the chaos that has followed the army’s power grab. On virtually every front, from public health to national security, China now faces new threats created by the post-coup breakdown in governance and the rule of law. As these consequences come into focus, Beijing will have to decide whether to maintain its tacit acceptance of the generals’ regime or take a different policy tack to protect investments in its neighbor to the south.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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