The Myanmar Update is a series of regular conferences that focus on recent economic, political and social conditions in Myanmar. The conferences provide in-depth analysis into selected themes of particular relevance to Myanmar’s socio-economic development. The Myanmar Update has been held at The Australian National University since 1990.

The Myanmar (Burma) Update is a major forum at which to present cutting-edge scholarship on political, social and economic affairs in Myanmar. Now in its third decade, it is one of only two longstanding, regularly held international conferences on the country, and is alone in routinely publishing papers presented at the conference. It is one of a range of Update conferences held at The Australian National University on countries across Asia and the Pacific. 

Register Now - 2023 Myanmar Update


The 2023 Myanmar Update conference will take place at The Australian National University on Friday 21 July – Saturday 22 July 2023.

We would love for you to join us in person, in the Auditorium, Australian Centre on China in the World Building #188 on the ANU Campus. 

The 2023 Myanmar Update will be live streamed via Zoom Events. Please note no Q&A from the online audience, and some sessions are in-person only, we apologies for this inconvenience.

There are also pre-conference events on Thursday 20 July that we will list on our conference program with more information:

Myanmar Update 2021

2021 Myanmar Update

Living with the Pandemic and the Coup

In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic changed things everywhere. It is still too early to say what the full effects of the pandemic will be on Myanmar. And to further exacerbate this, in February 2021, the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s Armed forces staged a coup seizing power from the democratically elected and incumbent government, the National League for Democracy. What has followed has seen mass demonstrations on the streets, brutal crackdowns, economic downturn and the redrawing of many long-held boundaries, be it social or political. This year’s update brings together a diverse list of experts who address the many social issues that have emerged from both the pandemic and the coup and their long-term consequences for Myanmar.

The Myanmar Update 2021 is supported by the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and the International Development Research Centre, Canada.


The preliminary conference program and additional attendee information is available below.

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The conference will be held online on Thursday 15 July to Saturday 17 July, with limited attendance on the ANU campus.


  • Dinith Adikari, PhD Candidate, School of Culture, History and Language, ANU College of Asia-Pacific
  • Justine Chambers, Visiting Fellow, School of Culture, History and Language, ANU College of Asia-Pacific
  • Nick Cheesman, Director, ANU Myanmar Research Centre, ANU
  • Michael Dunford, PhD Candidate, School of Culture, History and Language, ANU College of Asia-Pacific
  • Charlotte Galloway, Honorary Professor, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Jonathan Liljeblad, Senior Lecturer, ANU College of Law

Day 1 – Thursday 15 July 2021

12:30-16:30 AEST

Keynote Address

Welcome address by Dean of College of Asia-Pacific, Professor Helen Sullivan and Nick Cheesman, Director, ANU Myanmar Research Centre

Keynote address by Professor Yanghee Lee, Professor at Sungkyunkwan University and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar.

Panel 1: The Coup

  • ‘UN, Please Ignore Us’: Addressee-design in Myanmar’s ongoing anti-coup uprising- Elliott Prasse-Freeman, National University of Singapore.
  • The Contested State of Burma: Conflict, Coups, and the Federalism Promise- Nicola Williams, Australian National University.
  • New friends, old enemies: Politics of Ethnic Armed Corganisations after the Myanmar Coup- Salai Samuel Hmung, Australian National University.
  • Centering Heterogeneity in Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement- Michael Dunford, Australian National University.

Speaker address by Khin Zaw Win, Director of the Tampadipa Institute

Day 2 - Friday 16 July 2021

12:00-17:30 AEST

Speaker Address

Political Update by Morten Pedersen, Senior Lecturer at University of New South Wales Canberra.

Panel 2: Foreign Relations, Aid and the Coup

  • The nature, scope and limits of international responses to Myanmar’s coup - Nicholas Coppel, Monash University.
  • The Pendulum of Neutralism: Myanmar’s Shifting Approach to Non-Alignment from 2010-2020 - Hunter Marston, Australian National University and Andrea Passeri, University of Malaya.
  • Debt, Precarity and the Politicisation of State Aid: COVID-19 Impacts and Post – Coup Options- Gerard McCarthy, National University of Singapore, Anonymous Scholar, Andrea Smurra, University College London and Russel Toth, University of Sydney.

Panel 3: Politics, Elections and the Pandemic

  • The Myanmar 2020 Elections and the Conditions of the COVID-19 Pandemic - Michael Lidauer and Gilles Saphy
  • Vanishing Network: USDP’s Position in Myanmar’s Democratic Consolidation (2015 - 2020) - Constant Courtin, University of British Colombia.
  • Exploring Myanmar Prison Department’s Responses to Covid-19 and the Implications of the Coup - Anonymous and Tomas Martin, DIGNITY.

Speaker Address

Speaker Address by H.E Lian H. Sakhong, Minister of Federal Union Affairs, National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

Day 3- Saturday 17 July 2021

12:00-17:30 AEST

Speaker Address

Economic Update by Htwe Htwe Thein, Curtin University and Vicky Bowman, Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business.

Panel 4: Socio-Economic Issues

  • The Myanmar Economy, COVID-19 and the current political context: issues and prospects for recovery - Linda Calabrese, Max Mendez-Parra and Laetitia Pettinotti, Overseas Development Initiative.
  • Socioeconomic Challenges of Local Fisherman, due to Pandemic; Mie Mie Kyaw, independent expert.
  • Human rights and access to worship places- JSeng Rose, independent expert.
  • How are fashion workers in Myanmar surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic? Initial findings of struggles and resilience - Sara Toedt, RMIT.

Panel 5: Poverty, Food Insecurity and Social Protection Under COVID-19 and the coup in Myanmar

  • Poverty, food insecurity, and social protection during COVID-19 and the coup in Myanmar: Combined evidence from household phone surveys and micro-simulations – Afke Jager, Innovations for Poverty Action-Myanmar.
  • How could COVID-19 affect maternal and child nutrition? An exploration of impact pathways in Yangon, Myanmar - Sophie Gaudet
  • Myanmar’s Microfinance Sector, Agriculture, under COVID 19 and the coup: Emerging Insights and New Challenges - Russel Toth, University of Sydney.

Speaker Address

Swe Win, Editor-in-Chief, Myanmar Now

Closing Remarks

2019 Myanmar Update

2019 Myanmar Update

Living with Myanmar

Since 2011 Myanmar has experienced profound changes and reforms. The formation of a new government in Myanmar, led by the National League for Democracy, was also a crucially important milestone in the country’s transition to a more inclusive form of governance. And yet, for many people everyday struggles remain unchanged, and have often worsened in recent years. Key economic, social and political reforms are stalled, conflict persists and longstanding issues of citizenship and belonging remain.

Since the last conference in 2017, Myanmar’s restive borderlands have been the site of escalating military campaigns, driving more than 800,000 Rohingya, Kachin, Shan and Karen people to flee internally or across borders. These dynamics have complicated Myanmar’s diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries and exposed the fractures at the heart of Myanmar’s transition to partial civilian rule.

Building on the 2017 Update which probed the theme of ‘Transformations’, the 2019 conference seeks to explore the contradictions, ambiguities and complexities of ‘Living with Myanmar’. What is it like to live with and navigate the institutions, socialities and political ideals that shape life for many people in and outside of the territory of Myanmar? How are people engaging in creative and productive ways with Myanmar’s historical, geographic and institutional complexities? We invite scholars and practitioners to probe these questions, focusing on how everyday people, activists, state officials and external actors craft lives and worldviews as they live with Myanmar.

The 2019 Myanmar Update is supported by the ANU College Of Asia and the Pacific, International Development Research Centre, Canada, the United Nations Development Program, Myanmar, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.



Additional information for attendees is available below.

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For further information, please contact the conveners at

  • Charlotte Galloway, Director, Myanmar Research Centre, ANU
  • Nick Cheesman, Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, ANU
  • Yuri Takahashi, School of Culture, History and Language, ANU
  • Justine Chambers, Associate-Director, Myanmar Research Centre, ANU
  • Gerard McCarthy, Associate-Director, Myanmar Research Centre, ANU

Conference venue: Auditorium, China in the World Building 188, Fellows Lane, ANU

Myanmar studies get intensive - A one-day workshop preceding the 2019 Myanmar Update will be held on Thursday, 14 March 2019. The workshop is for Early Career Researchers and Higher Degree by Research students, more details here.

Visa letter: For conference attendees, a visa letter confirming your registration is available on request via

2017 Myanmar Update

2017 Myanmar Update


The formation of a new government in Myanmar, led by the National League for Democracy, is a crucially important milestone in the country’s political transformation. This profound change is being matched by similarly far-reaching shifts in Myanmar’s economic, social and cultural landscape.

The 2017 Myanmar Update will address these multiple transformations, offering perspectives of people working on the ground and those studying the country abroad. It presents an opportunity for scholars and practitioners to draw on their research and work in studying and addressing both what is changing and remaining constant in Myanmar’s transition and how these dynamics are likely to influence the trajectory of reform over the coming years.

The 2017 Myanmar Update was hosted by the ANU Myanmar Research Centre, and supported by the Department of Political and Social Change, in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.


Additional information for attendees is available below.

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Venue: Molonglo Theatre, J.G. Crawford Building (#132), Lennox Crossing, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT


Chit Win

Research Scholar
Department of Political and Social Change
The Australian National University

Gerard McCarthy

Research Scholar
Department of Political and Social Change
The Australian National University

Justine Chambers

Research Scholar
Department of Anthropology
The Australian National University

Nicholas Farrelly

Director, Myanmar Research Centre
The Australian National University

2015 Myanmar Update hero image

2015 Myanmar Update

Making Sense of Conflict

As rapid political, economic and social changes continue in Myanmar ahead of the general elections anticipated for later this year, the theme for the 2015 Myanmar/Burma Update is ‘Making Sense of Conflict’. Since the last Myanmar/Burma Update conference in 2013, Myanmar has succeeded in making progress on many key economic and social reforms, and in certain areas of institution building. At the same time, political, social and armed conflict persists, and in some parts of the country has increased considerably. The continuation of longstanding conflicts in Myanmar raises questions about their persistence and the prospects of efforts to resolve them. Other non-traditional conflicts also are emerging, and are cause for significant concern.

The 2015 conference aimed to address the breadth and depth of conflicts in Myanmar from a range of angles, offering perspectives of people working on the ground and those studying the country abroad. It presents an opportunity for scholars and practitioners to draw on their research and work in studying and addressing conflict in Myanmar to probe its many layers, and consider the means by which conflict might be resolved.

The 2015 Myanmar/Burma Update was supported by the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific and the Asian Studies Association of Australia.


Additional information for attendees is available below.

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Nick Cheesman or via

T +61 2 6125 0181

Nicholas Farrelly or via

T +61 2 6125 8220

    2013 MBU hero image

    2013 Myanmar/Burma Update

    Debating Democratisation

    The Conference theme was partly a response to the insistence of government representatives in Myanmar (Burma) that they would not go back on commitments to democratise. Some observers of the political changes since ANU convened its last regular Update Conference in May 2011 concurred that the reform program was irreversible. They pointed to the many new policy initiatives from the centre, the apparent sincerity of elite actors about the need for consensus on democratic transition, and growing popular sentiment for social and political change as among evidence that the country was firmly on a democratising path.

    Others were less confident. Resurgent civil war, communal conflict, and constraints on the burgeoning print news media were casting doubt on some short-term prospects.

    The 2013 Myanmar Update was hosted by the Department of Political and Social Change, in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.


    Additional information is available below.

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    The goal of national reconciliation was being frustrated by military impunity. And although the National League for Democracy swept by-elections in 2012, the party continued to be dominated by a single personality and had not yet built a platform upon which to represent itself as a viable alternative to the military-established Union Solidarity and Development Party that held an overwhelming number of seats in the national legislature. International capital was returning, but not at a pace or in a manner as to satisfy demands for immediate improvements in living standards and employment opportunities. The gap between rich and poor was not narrowing.

    Meanwhile, state institutions—including the bureaucracy, courts and police—continued to function much as they had done for over two decades. Steps to effect change from Naypyitaw had for most people not yet been realised in tangible results. Hopes were high, but so too was skepticism born of half a century of military dictatorship and the memories of earlier, lost moments of promise.

    Participants at the conference asked,

    • Is Myanmar (Burma) democratising, or is it moving towards a new form of authoritarianism, perhaps one more consonant with other contemporary authoritarian regimes in Asia?
    • What lessons for Myanmar (Burma) can we draw from democratisation theory, and from comparisons with other countries in the region, or further afield?

    Coming at a critical time, and one of growing interest in the country among researchers and policymakers, the 2013 Myanmar (Burma) Update Conference assembled leading international scholars (1) of democratisation, political transition and comparative politics to debate these questions with leading and emerging specialists on politics and society in Myanmar (Burma). These scholars subsequently contributed to two publications (2): Debating Democratisation in Myanmar (ISEAS 2014) and a special edition of South East Asia Research.

    2013 MBU hero image

    2011 Myanmar/Burma Update

    Obstacles to the rule of law; the role of the media; effectiveness of international assistance; political and economic update

    The first elections in Myanmar/Burma since 1990, held on 7 November 2010, were a significant moment in the country's political life, even if organized so as to ensure continuity rather than to make a break with the past. The elections purported to restore representative government, but in reality were designed to adapt and preserve military rule. The electoral process was neither free nor open. The government restricted opportunities for popular involvement. Many opposition groups at home and abroad — most notably the National League for Democracy — called for a boycott. Thousands of prisoners of conscience remained in detention during the vote, including NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — who was released a week later — and the leadership of the second-most successful party in 1990, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. Notwithstanding, some opposition activists and former political prisoners chose to register parties and field candidates in the belief that if a few independent voices can be heard in the new parliament then they can slowly open opportunities for genuine political change at a later date. Many small parties also ran with the intent of representing the interests of specific ethnic and regional constituencies.

    Unsurprisingly, the military-established Union Solidarity and Development Party took an overwhelming majority in the national parliament, amid widespread allegations of ballot stuffing through advance votes. A number of minority parties whose exit polls suggested that their candidates would do well instead picked up relatively few seats. However, the extent of vote rigging appears to have been less in some areas where ethnic minority parties appear to have been more successful than parties contesting in the big cities. Notwithstanding, adding in the one-quarter of both chambers in the national parliament reserved for military appointees, former army officers and their associates look set to hold about three-quarters of all seats.

    Additional information is available below.

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    The elections have established the basic composition of the new assemblies at national and regional levels, but they have not resolved numerous pressing questions about how they will function and to what extent they will be able to exercise the powers vested in them under the 2008 Constitution. Will the handful of elected representatives from opposition parties be able to use their positions creatively to effect change? Will regional and minority aspirations be satisfied through the regional assemblies? Will ongoing tensions between centre and periphery be resolved or will they worsen? What plans do military authorities have to effect further political, legal and economic change through the new assemblies and other institutions? What role remains for the NLD and other parties and persons that did not participate in the election and are no longer formally part of the political process? These and many other questions remain largely unanswered.

    Against the backdrop of the elections and the laborious work of literally building a national assembly at the new capital of Naypyitaw the military has so far shown no sign that it intends to release its grip on the tools that it has used to repress popular aspirations for genuine change and retain effective control over the state apparatus. Despite the absence of any manifest serious threats to state unity and stability, national security — which is equated with the predominance of the armed forces — remains at the top of regime concerns. Ordinary citizens are imprisoned for trivial acts of resistance or for acting within their legal rights to represent community and public concerns about the corruption and excesses of state officials. The military as an institution is beyond the law, and state security personnel enjoy virtual impunity for human rights abuses carried out in the name of national interests. So far there is no indication that army leaders will be prepared to negotiate over control of the state, or allow for any true contest or verification of their policies and programs. Nor is there as yet any sign that they will be disposed to tolerate compromises that might involve different parties conceding ground to ensure outcomes that can really command wider support.

    Although the country has formally returned to constitutional rule, it remains to be seen as to the extent to which state agencies will adhere to the constitution's provisions. In the absence of the rule of law, the formal constitutional rearrangement of law-making and law-enforcing institutions will do little to bridge the vast gaps between what is on paper and what happens in reality. There are no institutions to protect basic civil rights. Private media are routinely censored. Moreover, workers are prohibited from forming unions, striking or taking other actions to demand reasonable wages and conditions. What steps can be taken to protect fundamental rights and establish some minimal conditions for the emergence of the rule of law? What can be done to ensure greater respect for property rights, so as to protect citizens against wanton confiscation of land, and extortion of money and assets? Can the new assemblies play any role in effecting changes that might lead to wider political and social reforms aimed at protecting rights?

    The chronic lack of transparency, unaccountability, non-responsiveness and absence of integrity from most government processes in Myanmar/Burma continues to raise profound doubts about how the formal return to constitutional and parliamentary government might enhance prospects for improved governance. Few in the country have any memory or experience of participatory government. Few are acquainted with the types of consultative processes associated with democratic change in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, continued official insistence on the control of humanitarian aid deters many international donors, whose generosity will not surpass what they see as self-serving policies which do not give priority to alleviating the plight of ordinary people. Improved access for foreign media and researchers could overcome chronic problems associated with a lack of reliable information and excessive government secrecy. The denial of freer access is counterproductive for everyone, since it results in mostly negative press for the government and hampers informed debate about the country internationally. The lifting of many restrictions on the flow of information could encourage agencies that have been reluctant to get involved in Myanmar/Burma to consider initiating projects.

    Can international assistance more effectively contribute to an environment that might improve the prospects for genuine political, economic and social change? To what extent can international agencies get involved beyond purely humanitarian endeavours? In what ways and through which organisations can assistance be delivered to strengthen capacity and enhance governance without providing unintended support for the military? Can strategically designed and targeted interventions realistically introduce or consolidate more far-reaching and sustainable improvements? These and the questions raised above speak to the main themes for the 2011 Myanmar/Burma Update.


    Monday, 16 May 2011, 9.00am to 5.00pm

    Tuesday, 17 May 2011, 9.00am to 4.00pm


    Hedley Bull Lecture Theatre, Hedley Bull Centre, ANU


    Monique Skidmore,
    Pro Vice-Chancellor International and Major Projects University of Canberra

    Trevor Wilson,
    Visiting Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, ANU,

    Nick Cheesman,
    PhD Candidate, Department of Political and Social Change, ANU,