After the general election in 2015, there was hope that democracy would prevail in Burma/Myanmar and serve as a driver moving the country’s peace process forward. Attempts were made to embark on economic development, aiming to bring prosperity to society while giving high priority to environmental sustainability. Myanmar has indeed opened opportunities for foreign investment: speeding up industrial and special economic zones, expanding infrastructure development, and promoting the modernization of agriculture. However, this has also resulted in environmental degradation, resource conflicts and land-grabbing. As the country has opened up to development, it has also allowed more space for civil society to flourish, raising political awareness, demands for accountability, and human rights concerns. Myanmar’s universities, once working in near-isolation, have opened up to new ideas and new research agendas. However, ethnic conflicts still continue and, in some cases, have become even more intense, leading to atrocities against certain ethnic groups and human rights violations.

The internal dynamics of Burma/Myanmar society are not isolated from the larger changing economic and political context of Southeast Asia, which itself is being shaped by the expansion of power and economic influence of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Myanmar will become a strategic partner of China, as it provides access to Indian Ocean, once the plan to connect Kunming to Kyaukpyu is completed. On the other hand, India has adopted its “Act East” policy and has increased its engagement with Myanmar. Japan and Thailand also have a major role, investing in building special industrial zones in Myanmar. Finally, the emergence of ASEAN community has increasingly paved the way to regional connectivity and cooperation, as well as cross-border migration and mobility.

The 3rd International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies will be organized during 5th – 7th March 2021 at Chiang Mai University. It aims to be a platform for regional/international scholars and practitioners interested in Burma/Myanmar society as it undergoes economic, political and social transformation to exchange ideas and research experiences on critical issues, as well as strengthen and expand their networks. The ICBMS III committee invites individual abstracts as well as panel proposals from interested academics, researchers, graduate students, and professionals, as well as practitioners engaged in the field of Burma/Myanmar studies. The conference themes include:

Conference themes

  1. Economic Development in Myanmar
  2. Resource Management (Forest, Land, Water, Fishes) & Governance
  3. Agrarian Transformation & Environmental/Climate Change
  4. Urban Space & Urban Livelihood
  5. Migration, Migrants, Refugees and the Displaced
  6. Transnationalism, Transboundary Investment (BRI), SEZs
  7. Peace Process & Governance
  8. Ethnic Inclusion/Exclusion
  9. History and Social Memory
  10. Language, Mother-tongue Language Education
  11. Changing Media Landscape (Hate Speech)
  12. Popular Religion, Religion and Harmony
  13. Health Equality/Inequality
  14. Education and Development, Non-state Education
  15. Gender & Development
  16. Myanmar and East Asian Powers
  17. Art and Society
  18. Food Security and Food Sovereignty
  19. Social and Environmental Movements


The International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies was first organized in July 2015 at Chiang Mai University in collaboration with the University of Mandalay. ICBMS was attended by 543 participants from 29 countries, with 48 sessions of paper presentation and 7 roundtables. The conference brought together scholars, researchers, journalists, NGO workers and observers from Burma/Myanmar, as well as from around the world to engage in discussion on Myanmar’s transition.

ICBMS is organized every two years, with Chiang Mai University and the University of Mandalay taking turns as conference host, and with the possibility of extending collaboration with other universities in both Myanmar and Thailand.

ICBMS2 was held in Mandalay 16-18 February 2018, hosted by the University of Mandalay. ICBMS3 will convene in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from 22-24 October 2020.