Timeline: Reforms in Burma

A process of reform has been under way in Burma since November 2010, when military rule was replaced by a new military-backed civilian government. Here is a timeline of key developments.


Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi waves to her supporters as she leaves the National League for Democracy head office on 4 January 2012 Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has enjoyed greater physical and political freedoms

November: The main military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), claims a resounding victory in the first elections for 20 years. Opposition groups allege widespread fraud and many Western countries condemn the vote as a sham. The junta says it marks the transition from military rule to a civilian democracy.

A week after the election, Aung San Suu Kyi - who had been prevented from taking part - is released from house arrest.


January: The government authorises internet access for Aung San Suu Kyi.

March: Thein Sein is sworn in as president of a nominally civilian government and the transfer of powers to the new government is complete.

May: The new government frees thousands of prisoners under an amnesty, but few political prisoners are among them and the move is dismissed by one rights group as "pathetic".

August: Aung San Suu Kyi is allowed to leave Rangoon on a political visit; days later she meets President Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw.

September: President Thein Sein suspends construction of controversial Chinese-funded Myitsone hydroelectric dam, in move seen as showing greater openness to public opinion.

October: More than 200 political prisoners are freed as part of a general amnesty. New labour laws allowing unions are passed.

November: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) agrees that Burma will chair the grouping in 2014. Aung San Suu Kyi says she will stand for election to parliament, as her party rejoins the political process.

A political prisoner, right, is welcomed by friends as she comes out of Insein prison in Rangoon, Burma, on Friday 13 January 2012 Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed as Burma pushes ahead with reforms

December: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits, meets Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and holds talks with President Thein Sein. The US offers to improve relations if democratic reforms continue.

President Thein Sein signs a law allowing peaceful demonstrations for the first time. The NLD re-registers as a political party in advance of by-elections for parliament due to be held early in 2012.

Burmese authorities agree a truce with rebels of the Shan ethnic group and order the military to stop operations against ethnic Kachin rebels.


January: The government signs a ceasefire with rebels of Karen ethnic group.

A day later, hundreds of prisoners are released - among them the country's most prominent political prisoners, including veterans of the 1988 student protest movement, monks involved in the 2007 demonstrations and activists from many ethnic minority groups.

April: Taking part in an election for the first time since 1990, the NLD wins 43 out of 45 seats in landmark parliamentary by-elections seen as a major test for Burma's reform drive. The polls are thought to have been generally free and fair.

The US responds by easing sanctions on Burma. The EU also agrees to suspend most sanctions in Burma and opens an office in the biggest city, Rangoon.

June: Aung San Suu Kyi visits Norway to collect the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991, before travelling on to the UK to meet old friends, family and to address parliament.

Aung Suu Kyi seated among fellow National League for Democracy members of parliament in Burma's lower house  on 9 July 2012 The National League for Democracy won most of the seats in the by-elections

Meanwhile, communal violence erupts in Rakhine state between Buddhists and Muslims, leaving some 80,000 people displaced.

July: Aung San Suu Kyi makes her parliamentary debut, one of 43 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) to have secured a seat.

August: Burma removes 2,082 names from its blacklist which bars people deemed a threat to national security from entering or leaving the country.

September: President Thein Sein visits the US, shortly after Aung San Suu Kyi also tours the country - she collects a Congressional Medal of Honour.

October: Violence flares again in Rakhine, as aid agencies warn of a worsening humanitarian crisis.

November: US President Barack Obama visits Burma on his first overseas trip since re-election.

December: The government announces that privately owned newspapers are to be allowed in Burma from April 2013 for the first time in almost 50 years.

Burma ushers in the new year for the first time with a public countdown.


January: The government abolishes a 25-year-old ban on public gatherings of more than five people.

The Asian Development Bank resumes loans to Burma for the first time in 30 years in an attempt to boost its social and economic development.

February: The government and ethnic Kachin rebels reach an agreement to hold talks, after weeks of fighting in the north-east of the country.

A nreport reveals that police fired military-issue white phosphorus grenades to disperse protesters at the controversial Monywa copper mine.

Thein Sein embarks on his first European tour as head of state.

March: A dispute involving three Muslims in the central Burmese town of Meiktila triggers deadly clashes between Muslim and Buddhist communities.

More than 40 people die in clashes and around 12,000 Muslims are displaced from their homes. A state of emergency is declared in the area.

Thein Sein warns the government will use force to stop "political opportunists and religious extremists" from fomenting hatred between faiths.

April: The European Union lifts its remaining trade, economic and individual sanctions - except those on arms sales - in response to Burma's political reform programme.

Human rights groups criticise the move as premature, saying it reduces the leverage the EU has on Burma.

A report says there is clear evidence of government complicity in ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against Muslims in Rakhine state. The government rejects the allegations.

More on This Story

Burma's Transition

More Asia stories


Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • MonkeyMeet the tarsier

    The BBC travels to a Philippine island that is home to the world's oldest primate


  • Francis Rossi, co-founder of band Status QuoHARDtalk Watch

    Status Quo's Francis Rossi explains how alcohol led him to take cocaine

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.