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 Regional Crime Webs Enjoy Post-Coup Resurgence: The Kokang Story

Myanmar Regional Crime Webs Enjoy Post-Coup Resurgence: The Kokang Story

Friday, August 27, 2021

By:Jason Tower;Priscilla A. Clapp

Following the coup by the Myanmar army on February 1, 2021, fighting exploded immediately in the China-Myanmar border area along a strategic trade route between the two countries. But the outbreak wasn’t about the coup — instead it was a battle between two Chinese-speaking militias over control of the Kokang Special Administrative Zone, a lucrative center for illegal business. The story behind this episode provides a small window on the rise of regional criminal networks under the army’s patronage and how they are enjoying a new lease on life under the junta.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention;Economics & Environment

How Myanmar’s Coup Opens Opportunity for National Reconciliation

How Myanmar’s Coup Opens Opportunity for National Reconciliation

Friday, August 20, 2021

By:Zarchi Oo;Hkawn Htoi;Carl Stauffer, Ph.D.

Since Myanmar’s military illegally deposed the country’s elected government on February 1, it has killed more than 1,000 people and is actively undermining efforts to manage the COVID pandemic by arresting volunteer doctors, blocking imports of medical supplies and hoarding and stealing oxygen. The military’s inhumanity and daily atrocities have created a common enemy for a divided society and a rare opportunity for the Myanmar people to initiate a much-needed nation-building process. The opposition is a loose group of organizations largely held together by a shared hatred for the military. If it is to decisively shift the trajectory of this conflict and end the military’s 70-year stranglehold on power, it will need to unify through a transformative reconciliation process.

Type: Analysis and Commentary


In Myanmar, the State the Generals Seized Is Coming Apart

In Myanmar, the State the Generals Seized Is Coming Apart

Thursday, August 19, 2021

By:Jason Tower

Over the past six months under the junta’s “care,” the chaos and turmoil sparked by the coup has moved the country past the brink of failed state status. Growing armed resistance is emerging in the shrinking area where the military’s unbridled brutality has preserved its veneer of control. In liberated zones and particularly in regions controlled by ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), new forms of governance and even sovereignty are taking shape in the vacuum left by Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s war on political reform. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance;Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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