In February 2021, Burma erased 10 years of progress toward political reform after the military took power in a coup. Since the coup, the military has created an environment of constant chaos and terror, killing scores of protesters, and waging a war against the Burmese people, who refuse to be subjected once again to brutal military rule. Since 2012, the U.S. Institute of Peace has worked with communities in Burma to curb intercommunal tensions and violence and support stakeholders looking to end decades of civil war and oppression. In addition, USIP’s Burma program provides timely research and analysis on conflict dynamics in Burma for practitioners, policymakers and observers in Burma and abroad.
Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in Burma.
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.
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.
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.