Myanmar government troops on the march in Kokang. Photo by EPA.

Myanmar government troops on the march in Kokang. Photo by EPA.

Conference to examine country’s persistent ethnic conflicts, violence and contentious politics, and what it means for political and social transformation.

Over the weekend, 24 rebel soldiers were killed by Myanmar authorities in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone as part of an ongoing, and undeclared, military offensive.

The incident has since led to shelling inside China that the Myanmar government blames rebels for, and the extension of martial law in the area, which borders China’s Yunnan province.

Located in Shan State in the northeast of the country, Kokang has been the site of a major campaign against the Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) since February.

Bringing an end to six years of relative calm, the Chinese speaking Kokang region has been in a state of emergency ever since.

The MNDAA signed a bilateral ceasefire with Myanmar’s then-military government in 1989, with peace lasting until 2009. But moves to turn the MDAA into a paramilitary border force under the control of the Myanmar Army saw the Kokang commence a series of violent skirmishes that year. The MDAA lost territory and more than 30,000 refugees fled to Yunnan.

It’s against this backdrop that the 2015 Myanmar/Burma Update conference will take place at The Australian National University in Canberra on 5-6 June 2015.

As rapid political, economic and social changes continue in Myanmar, the latest edition of the biennial conference aims to ‘make 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.

Bringing together leading experts from Australia, Myanmar and the globe, the conference will address the breadth and depth of conflicts in Myanmar, with insight from people working on the ground as well as studying the country from abroad.

Presentations will cover borderland conflicts and peace negotiations, communal violence, electoral politics and law-making, and contentious politics.

Another highlight will include the keynote address on the reform process by HE U Khin Aung Myint, the speaker of the upper house of Myanmar’s parliament.

The conference is free and open to the public. To register and for more information visit

The 2015 Myanmar/Burma Update is hosted by the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University.