Marte Nilsen

Senior Researcher

Marte Nilsen
Additional position(s):
Coordinator of the Research School on Peace and Conflict

Mobile phone: (+47) 988 79 323
Twitter: @MarteNilsen

Research Interests

Marte Nilsen is a Historian of Religions and a Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Her research focus is on the ethnicity-religion-nationbuilding nexus of political and violent conflicts in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Myanmar and Thailand. Research interests include:

  • Civil society movements in peacebuilding and democratization
  • Societal transformation in conflict settings
  • The impact of traditional ideologies and cosmologies on political and violent conflicts
  • Buddhist-Muslim relations in Southeast Asia
  • The Rohingya crisis
  • The impact of aid and development policies on violent conflicts


Marte Nilsen is a Senior Researcher at PRIO. She coordinates the Research School on Peace and Conflict -  a joint initiative of the University of Oslo, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and PRIO. She also coordinates PRIO's Religion research group.


2012: Dr.philos., History of Religions, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University.

2005: Cand.philol., History of Religions, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo.

2002: Cand.mag., History of Religions, Sociology, History, University of Oslo.

Language skills

Proficient: Norwegian, English.                                                                              

Intermediate: German, Thai.

Basic: Burmese, Chinese (Mandarin).

2012 Burmese language course (1 week intensive), SOAS University of London.

2010 Thai language training, intermediate level (3 weeks), Chiang Mai Thai Language Center.

2006 Chinese language (KIN 1110-1120 1 year), University of Oslo.


Work Experience

2012 – Present: Senior Researcher, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

2017 – Present: Coordinator. Research School on Peace and Conflict.

2007 – 2012: Doctoral Researcher, Faculty of Humanities and Theology, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University.

2006 – 2008: President, Attac Norway.

2005-2006: University board member, University of Oslo.


2016 Web studies program developer – Religion and Conflict, Bjørknes Uni. College.

2015 Main lecturer – Religion and Conflict, Bjørknes University College.

2015 Main lecturer – History of Religions, Norwegian School of Theology.          

2013 Guest lecturer – Religion and Politics, University of Oslo.

2010 Guest lecturer – Terror in the Name of God, Lund University.

2006 Guest lecturer – Religion and Globalisation, University of Oslo.




"Ingen er i stand til å fylle Kong Bhumibols sko", Aftenposten, 13.10.2016

"Are We Nearing an End to Buddhist Extremism in Myanmar?", Southeast Asia Globe, 02.11.2016

"Double Marginalisation of Myanmar's Ethnic Minorities", Myanmar Times, 26.04.2016

"Myanmar's Ethnic Minorities Marginalised More", East Asia Forum, 13.04.2016

"The Rise of Political Buddhism in Myanmar", Tricycle, 06.06.2015

"Buddhist Nationalism Threatens Myanmar's Democratic Transition", East Asia Forum, 12. 03.2015

"Norges balansekunst i Myanmar", NRK Ytring, 17.10.2014

"Farlig Folketelling", Dages Næringsliv, 08.10.2014

"Thailands skjøre demokrati" NRK Ytring, 28.05.2014

"Politisk krise i Thailand", Forsvarets forum Nr. 3, 2014

"Slaget om Bangkok", NRK Ytring, 17.01.2014

"Hva nå, Thailand?", Dagsavisen, 12.06.2010

"Opprøret i Thailand", Dagbladet, 16.04.2009

"Elitenes kamp", VG, 14.09.2008

Television and Radio appearances (sample)

Thai Politics:                      Nyhetslunsj, NRK 06.05.2019

Thai Politics:                      TV2 Nyhetskanalen, 06.05.2019

Thai Politics:                      NRK Alltid Nyheter, 25.03.2019

Thai Politics:                      Urix på lørdag, NRK P2, 23.03.2019

Thai Politics:                      Studio 2, NRK P2, 06.03.2019

Myanmar Politics:             Urix, NRK 2, 20.09.2017

Thai Politics:                      Ytring, NRK P2, 14.05.2017

Thai Politics:                      Norgesglasset, NRK P1, 13.10.2016

Thai Politics:                      Urix, NRK2, 12.10.2016

Thai Politics:                      Her og Nå, NRK P1, 12.08 2016

Thai Politics:                      Nyhetskanalen, 10pm. TV2 11.08.2016

Thai Politics:                      Nyhetsmorgen, NRK P2, 08.08.2016

Myanmar Politics:             Urix, NRK2 15.02.2016

Thai Politics:                      Dagsrevyen, NRK1, 18.08.2015

Myanmar Politics:             Urix NRK2, 15.03.2016.  

Myanmar Politics:             Nyhetsettermiddag NRK P2, 11.05.2015

Thai Politics:                      Norgesglasset NRK P1, 23.05.2014

Thai Politics:                      Dagsnytt 18 NRK2, 22.05.2014

Thai Politics:                      Nyhetsmorgen P2, 03.02.2014

Myanmar Politics:             Urix NRK2, 14.11.2012

Thai Politics:                      Aktuelt NRK2, 19.05.2010

Thai Politics:                      Dagsnytt 18 NRK2, 18.05.2010

Thai Politics:                      Dagsnytt 18 NRK2, 19.05.2010


PRIO started tracking events online in 2007. This listing is not complete. Past events may be mentioned in our news archive.



Recent Publications

Nilsen, Marte; Amara Thiha; Ilaria Carrozza & Øystein H. Rolandsen (2021) China in Myanmar: Complex Engagements, Complicated Relations, PRIO Policy Brief, 6. Oslo: PRIO.

All Publications

PhD Thesis

Nilsen, Marte (2012) Negotiating Thainess: Religious and National Identities in Thailand's Southern Conflict. PhD thesis, Lund Studies in History of Religions, Lund University, Sweden.

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Nilsen, Marte (2020) Perceptions of Rights and the Politics of Humanitarian Aid in Myanmar, The European Journal of Development Research 32(2): 338–358.
Nilsen, Marte & Shintaro Hara (2018) Religious Motivation in Political Struggles: The Case of Thailand's Patani Conflict, Journal of Religion and Violence 5(3): 291–311.
Nilsen , Marte (2013) Will democracy bring peace to Myanmar?, International Area Studies Review 16(2): 115–141.
Nilsen, Marte (2011) The Spirit of a Heroine: Ya Mo - Spirit Reverence, Patriotism and Thai Buddhism, Modern Asian Studies 45(6): 1599–1625.

Book Chapter

Nilsen, Marte (2019) No Peace in a Ceasefire: Women's Agency in the Kachin Conflict, in Åshild Kolås, ed., Women Peace and Security in Myanmar: Between Feminism and Ethnopolitics. London: Routledge (58–73).
Nilsen, Marte (2012) Military Temples and Saffron-Robed Soldiers: Legitimacy and the Securing of Buddhism in Southern Thailand, in Tikhonov, Vladimir; & Torkel Brekke, eds, Buddhism and Violence. Militarism and Buddhism in Modern Asia. London: Routledge (37–53).

Conference Paper

Nilsen , Marte (2016) “Religious motivation in political struggles and the branding of jihadism”, presented at Defining and Analysing Jihadist Conflict: 1st Working Group Conference in the Resolving Jihadist Conflict project , Uppsala University, 5–8 September.

PRIO Policy Brief

Nilsen, Marte; Amara Thiha; Ilaria Carrozza & Øystein H. Rolandsen (2021) China in Myanmar: Complex Engagements, Complicated Relations, PRIO Policy Brief, 6. Oslo: PRIO.
Tønnesson, Stein; Ne Lynn Aung & Marte Nilsen (2019) Will Myanmar’s Northern Alliance Join the Peace Process?, PRIO Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.
Dupuy, Kendra; Haakon Gjerløw; Mohammad Ashraful Haque; Sultan Mahmud; Marte Nilsen & Gudrun Østby (2019) Mapping Education Programmes for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh, PRIO Policy Brief, 11. Oslo: PRIO.
Olney, Jessica; Nurul Haque; Roshid Mubarak; Marte Nilsen; Ingebjørg Finnbakk; Gudrun Østby & Kendra Dupuy (2019) Preventing a Lost Generation: Community-led education by Rohingya refugees, PRIO Policy Brief, 7. Oslo: PRIO.
Tønnesson, Stein & Marte Nilsen (2018) Still a Chance for Peace in Myanmar?, PRIO Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen , Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2016) A New Era for Myanmar – Trouble Ahead for Ethnic Minorities, PRIO Policy Brief, 5. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen , Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2016) A New Era for Myanmar – Trouble Ahead for Ethnic Minorities (Burmese Version), PRIO Policy Brief, 5. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen , Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2014) Myanmar’s National Census – Helping or ​Disrupting Peace?, PRIO Policy Brief, 1. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen , Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2014) High Risk of Electoral Violence in Myanmar, PRIO Policy Brief, 6. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen , Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2014) High Risk of Electoral Violence in Myanmar (BURMESE version), PRIO Policy Brief, 6. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen , Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2013) Political Parties and Peacebuilding in Myanmar, PRIO Policy Brief, 5. Oslo: PRIO.
Nilsen , Marte & Stein Tønnesson (2012) Can Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution Be Made To Satisfy Ethnic Aspirations?, PRIO Policy Brief, 11. Oslo: PRIO.

Report - External Series

Stave, Svein Erik; Marte Nilsen; & Kristin Dalen (2018) Evaluation of Norwegian Efforts to Ensure Policy Coherence for Development, Evalueringsrapporter, 8. Norad Evaluation Department.

Blog Posts

Myanmar: weak leadership is prompting grassroots activists to make a difference

Posted by Marte Nilsen & Benjamin Dix on Monday, 16 November 2020

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy secured yet another large majority in the Myanmar parliament in the national election. But, despite the Nobel peace laureate’s party being in power since 2015, progress in the war-torn and troubled country remains hampered by both structural restraints and the absence of political ... Read more »

The Politics of Humanitarian Aid to Myanmar

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Thursday, 30 July 2020

I felt like I had defeated the dictators when I walked out of Yangon’s Mingeladon airport for the first time, more than 20 years ago. Unnoticed, I had sneaked out of the queue and avoided the mandatory exchange of three new, unfolded, and spotless 100-dollar bills into the FEC monopoly ... Read more »

Accountable to Whom? Reflecting on the ethics of doing migration research

Posted by Cindy Horst, Marta Bivand Erdal, Marte Nilsen & Jørgen Carling on Friday, 15 November 2019

Who are we accountable to when doing research on migration and mobility? Many scholars, ourselves included, do research with – rather than about – refugees and other migrants, or indeed communities and individuals in origin or destination country. But to whom are we accountable? And what can and should accountability ... Read more »

No One can Fill King Bhumibol’s Shoes

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Monday, 17 October 2016

For 70 years, the beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) ruled Thailand, and to date he has represented the country’s only stable political reference point. Since the introduction of the constitutional kingdom in 1932, the country has been through 19 different constitutions and 12 military coups – the latest just ... Read more »

Are We Nearing an End to Buddhist Extremism in Myanmar?

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Ma Ba Tha and similar groups of extremist monks in Myanmar could face resistance after a government official finally rebuked their brand of nationalism. It took just one dismissive comment from the chief minister of Yangon to seemingly deflate Ma Ba Tha. The Buddhist nationalist organisation has become known for ... Read more »

Myanmar's Ethnic Minorities Marginalized More

Posted by Marte Nilsen & Stein Tønnesson on Wednesday, 13 April 2016

For the first time in over half a century, Myanmar has a government with a popular mandate, led by the National League for Democracy (NLD). Although the Myanmar armed forces still have extensive political powers under the 2008 constitution, and may seriously curtail the independent action of the new government, ... Read more »

The Rise of Political Buddhism in Myanmar

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Narrow Burman-Buddhist nationalism remains the country’s biggest barrier to sustainable political reform. The Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by the Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, is gaining ground in Myanmar. It has also been receiving increased international attention—last month for its proposal to ban Muslim headscarves ... Read more »

Buddhist Nationalism Threatens Myanmar’s Democratic Transition

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Thursday, 12 March 2015

It’s election year in Myanmar, the big test for the country’s aspiring democratic transition. Among the spirited national debates there are four controversial pieces of legislation currently under consideration in Myanmar’s Assembly of the Union parliament (the Pyidaungsu hluttaw). These reportedly aim to protect race and religion. But in truth, ... Read more »

Norway's Tightrope Walk in Myanmar

Posted by Marte Nilsen, Stein Tønnesson & Emil Jeremic on Thursday, 23 October 2014

Are the people of Myanmar able to distinguish between Norway’s role in promoting peace and the commercial interests of Norwegian businesses? Now that several state-owned Norwegian companies have entered into large and risky ventures in Myanmar, Norway is walking a tightrope between peace and commerce. The maintenance of support for ... Read more »

A Dangerous Census

Posted by Marte Nilsen, Kristin Dalen & Kristin Jesnes on Friday, 17 October 2014

Norway has spent NOK 40 million to help fund a census in Myanmar (Burma). The census results are at odds with previous assumptions and may increase the level of conflict in the country in the run-up to the elections in 2015. Norway must take responsibility. Every country needs to know who ... Read more »

Thailand’s Fragile Democracy

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Friday, 30 May 2014

The traditional elite clings to an outdated world view. But a military coup offers no solution. ​Two days after the military coup in Thailand at least 13 bombs exploded, approximately simultaneously, in the city of Pattani. Three people, including a five-year-old child, were killed, and approximately 60 people injured. On ... Read more »

Myanmar's National Census - Helping or Disrupting Peace?

Posted by Marte Nilsen & Stein Tønnesson on Wednesday, 12 February 2014

In March/April 2014 Myanmar will carry out its first population and housing census in more than 30 years. If carried out properly it may provide reliable data to be used not just by the government, but also by civil society organizations and political parties, as a basis for negotiating the ... Read more »

The Battle for Bangkok

Posted by Marte Nilsen on Monday, 20 January 2014

In the wake of the power struggle between the political elites in Thailand, we are now seeing a popular uprising. Once again Thailand’s capital is paralysed by demonstrations. The streets are filled with Thai flags and demands that the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, must step down. “Shut down Bangkok – ... Read more »

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