Until the World Shatters

Truth, Lies, and the Looting of Myanmar

This first in-depth piece of reportage about the largest natural resource heist in Asia reveals Myanmar’s world of secret-keepers and truth-tellers.

In Myanmar, where civil war, repressive government, and the $40 billion a year jade industry have shaped life for decades, everyone is fighting for their own version of the truth. Until the World Shatters, takes us deep into a world in which journalists seek to overcome censorship and intimidation, ethnic minorities wage guerilla war against a government they claim refuses to grant basic human rights; devout Buddhists launch violent anti-Muslim campaigns; and artists try to build their own havens of free expression.

In the bustling city of Yangon we meet Phoe Wa, a young photojournalist pursuing his dream at a time when the government is jailing reporters and nationalist voices are on the rise. In Myanmar’s far north, we meet Bum Tsit who is caught between the insurgent army his family supports and the business and military leaders his career depends on. His attempt to get rich quickly leads him to Myanmar’s biggest, worst kept secret: the connection between the jade industry and the longest running war in the world.

Until the World Shatters weaves Phoe Wa and Bum Tsit’s stories to reveal a larger portrait of Myanmar’s history, politics, and people in a time and place where public trust has disappeared.



Daniel Combs is an award-winning author and international security professional who has spent the past six years studying Myanmar’s ethnic conflicts. In addition to Myanmar, Daniel has lived in and reported from Ethiopia, the Congo, Vietnam, and Israel. He is the former editor of the Asia Pacific Affairs Journal, and his writing and commentary have appeared on NPR, The Diplomat, and Asia Times, among others. Daniel is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

“[A]n illuminating portrait of a troubled and secretive country.” —Publishers Weekly

“The combination of Myanmar’s ancient culture and a deeply vexed modern history make it one of the world’s most intriguing places. Daniel Combs brings the skills of a keen, observant writer to a superb story. Until the World Shatters will absorb readers of all kinds with a chronicle that makes the distant feel strikingly visible.” —Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition

“A breezy, sparkling, and often delightful journey with broader lessons for any type of reader. I knew very little about Myanmar before I picked up Until the World Shatters. I tore through it in two days, and now feel like I understand, indeed care for, the country.” —Vincent Bevins, author of The Jakarta Method

“A powerful narrative about one of Asia’s most flagrant crimes: the plunder of indigenous lands in Myanmar. Western writing about Myanmar has long skewed towards exoticism or good-versus-evil tropes. But Combs embraces its complexity — richly illustrating the journeys of two men drawn towards the jade industry, a vortex of stolen riches and ruined lives.” —Patrick Winn, author of Hello Shadowlands

Until the World Shatters covers a country about which too little is known, and even less is understood. Myanmar has a complex and painful history that shapes its troubled present, but Daniel Combs sees things clearly from the ground level through the eyes of people who are seldom interviewed, combining their observations with his own to present a depth and balance that is rare and badly needed.” —David Dapice, Senior Economist, Ash Center, Harvard Kennedy School

“At a time when journalists are under attack and it feels like truth itself is under siege, this book journeys into how this struggle plays out in the everyday lives of people in some of the most under-covered corners of the world. In doing so, Daniel Combs has accomplished something rare: a deeply researched, lyrically told piece of reportage on an essential topic. Anyone who cares about the pursuit of truth should read this book.” —Charles Sennott, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The GroundTruth Project