Ethnic and Religious Tolerance in Myanmar

Priscilla Clapp, former Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Burma; Senior Advisor to the Asia Society and the US Institute of Peace
Win Min, Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Economic and Social Development of the Myanmar Development Resource Institute (MDRI-CESD)
Susan Hayward, Religion and Peacebuilding Program, US Institute of Peace  

Alan Romberg, Distinguished Fellow and Director, East Asia Program, Henry L. Stimson Center

Thursday, April 24, 2014
2:30-4:30 p.m.

The Stimson Center
1111 19th Street, NW – 12th Floor
Washington, D.C.

Myanmar’s political liberalization has exposed a troubling intolerance within certain sectors of the population for the country’s religious and ethnic diversity, giving rise to various manifestations of ethnic and religious chauvinism, including communal violence. These developments are causing deep concern in the international community about whether the government in Naypyitaw has both the will and the capacity to prevent this populist extremism from threatening the reform process itself. Ethnic and religious conflict in Myanmar has deep historical, cultural, political, economic and psychological origins and has been variously contained and abetted by previous governments. Despite efforts to address the underlying political and economic conditions that have fueled conflict with ethnic minorities for decades, the government may now find itself overtaken by a challenge from the ethnic majority that it did not anticipate.

The panel will discuss the nature and history of the rising ethnic and religious intolerance in Myanmar, its potential impact on Myanmar’s international relations, and possible measures that external actors might take to help address the problem.

About the speakers:

Priscilla Clapp is a retired Minister-Counselor in the US Foreign Service and currently serves as Senior Advisor to the Asia Society and the US Institute of Peace, where she is also a member of the International Advisory Board. During her 30-year career with the US Government, Ms. Clapp held various positions in the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Department of State, and US embassies in Japan, the Soviet Union, South Africa, and Burma, where she was Chief of Mission and permanent Charge d’Affaires from 1999 to 2002. Before joining the government, Ms. Clapp spent 10 years in policy research at the Brookings Institution and MIT Center for International Studies. She is the author of several books and many articles on foreign policy. She speaks Russian, Japanese, French, and some Burmese.

Win Min is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic and Social Development of the Myanmar Development Resource Institute in Yangon. He is also a Senior Research Associate at the Vahu Development Institute and a journalist at the Voice of America. He was a lecturer for various Burmese programs at Chiang Mai University (2004-2010) and for Thai and Southeast Asian Studies Program at Payap University (2007-2010) in Thailand. From 2001 to 2005, he was a researcher at the Burma Fund. He was a student activist in Burma in 1988 and a member of the All Burma Students Democratic Front from 1988 to 2000. He received a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 2001.

Susan Hayward joined the US Institute of Peace in 2007, where her work in the Religion and Peacebuilding program has focused on Burma/Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Colombia, and Iraq. Her practitioner and research work focuses on pluralism, the impact of the religious sector on peace, women’s rights and religion, and identity formation in conflict. Hayward has over fifteen years experience working on peace, human rights, and refugee issues for the United Nations, the Academy of Educational Development, The Carter Center, Advocates for Human Rights, and Amnesty International. Hayward studied Buddhism in Nepal, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, holds degrees from Harvard and The Fletcher School, and is completing her doctorate in Buddhist and Christian studies at Georgetown University.

Alan D. Romberg is distinguished fellow and the director of the East Asia program at Stimson. Before joining Stimson in September 2000, he enjoyed a distinguished career working on Asian issues, both in and out of government, including more than 25 years in the State Department. Romberg was the principal deputy director of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for public affairs and deputy spokesman of the department. He served in various capacities dealing with East Asia, including director of the Office of Japanese Affairs, member of the Policy Planning staff for East Asia, and staff member at the National Security Council for China. He served overseas in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Additionally, Romberg spent almost 10 years as the CV Starr Senior Fellow for Asian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and was special assistant to the secretary of the navy. Romberg holds an M.A. from Harvard University, and a B.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.


For more information contact Hana Rudolph at [email protected] or 202-464-2682




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