He was named by the Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the "100 Leading Global Thinkers" of 2013 and by Prospect Magazine as one of 50 "World Thinkers" of 2014. He was voted 15th in Prospect Magazine's subsequent poll of "World's Leading Thinkers"
Thant Myint-U was born in New York City to Burmese parents and is the grandson of former Secretary-General of the United Nations U Thant. He has three sisters. According to him, he has always been a Myanmar national.
He was educated at Harvard University, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies , Johns Hopkins University and the University of Cambridge. He received his PhD in History from Cambridge University in 1996, MA in International Relations and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University and BSc in Government and Economics from Harvard University . From 1994-99 he was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he taught Asian and British imperial history. He lectured extensively, including at Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Cambridge, London University, and the Australian National University.
He has served in three UN peacekeeping operations. He first worked with the UN from 1992-3, as a Human Rights Officer in the UN Transitional Authority for Cambodia in Phnom Penh. In 1994 he was the Chief Spokesman for the UN Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia, based in Sarajevo, and in 1996 was a Political Advisor in the Office of the UN's Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In 2000 he joined the UN Secretariat in New York, working first in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and then in the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, becoming in 2004 Chief of the Policy Planning Unit in that department.
During this time he was a member of the secretariat of the Secretary-General's Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (High Level Threat Panel) which produced "A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility". In late 2005 and early 2006 he was briefly a Senior Officer in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General coordinating the establishment of the new Peacebuilding Commission, Peacebuilding Support Office, and the Mediation Support Unit, and other related reforms.
Aside from being Chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust, he is currently a member of the (President of Myanmar's) National Economic and Social Advisory Council, a Special Advisor to the Myanmar government at the Myanmar Peace Centre, a Senior Research Fellow of the Myanmar Development Resources Institute, a member of the Fund Board of the (Myanmar) Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund., and the Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council for South East Asia. He has held visiting fellowships at Harvard University, the International Peace Institute in New York, and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, was for many years a Research Associate of the Cambridge Centre for History and Economics, and is a Research Associate of the Cambridge Centre for South Asian Studies.
In addition to The River of Lost Footsteps and Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia, he is also the author of The Making of Modern Burma (Cambridge University Press 2000) and The UN Secretariat: A Brief History (Lynne Rienner 2007). He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times the International Herald Tribune, The London Review of Books, the New Statesman, the Far Eastern Economic Review, Time magazine and The Times Literary Supplement. He was awarded the "Asia Pacific Awards" (Asian Affairs Research Council and Mainichi Newspapers) "Special Prize" in November 2014 for "Where China Meets India".