Burma's many conflicts seem frustratingly intransigent, and it is the political, social, and military problems that have gained international attention. While much attention is rightfully paid to the violence and repression around these conflicts, much less is paid to ideas about the natural resources that fuel them – what EarthRights International calls “conflict resources.” Inadequate attention goes, too, to the traditional mechanisms of conflict transformation used at the local level in Burma, which represent a good deal of hope for the future of democracy and peace in the country.

Burma's many conflicts seem frustratingly intransigent, and it is the political, social, and military problems that have gained international attention. While much attention is rightfully paid to the violence and repression around these conflicts, much less is paid to ideas about the natural resources that fuel them – what EarthRights International calls “conflict resources.” Inadequate attention goes, too, to the traditional mechanisms of conflict transformation used at the local level in Burma, which represent a good deal of hope for the future of democracy and peace in the country.

The research presented in this paper, conducted over a period of five years, shows that respected insiders are the primary third parties resolving conflict between individuals and communities in Burma, in contrast with impartial outsiders, the traditional Western conflict “resolvers,” who are much less likely to play central roles. These approaches to conflict resolution are distinctly apart from Western methods and the techniques taught in academic and conflict studies settings.

This paper is potentially useful for students and practitioners of conflict resolution and conflict transformation, as it the space between conflict theory and action, and conflict resolution and transformation theory in the specific cultural and political context of Burma. The paper is also aimed at the general reader interested in efforts towards acheiving peace, human rights and environmental protection in Burma.

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