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2010-2015: A snapshot of Burma

In 2010, Burma held the first general elections since 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) gained a landslide victory – that was ignored by the military.

The 2010 polls, which took place when the country was under military rule and international trade sanctions, were considered rigged and gave the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) of ex-army officers a parliamentary majority.

President Thein Sein was elected to office and initiated a carefully planned, military-led democratic transition that is supposed culminate in elections on 8 November, a vote that is billed as the first openly contested polls in 25 years.

Below are some of the key events of the five-year transition that preceded the upcoming election.

7 November, 2010 – Burma’s first elections since 1990 are held and broadly criticised as rigged in favour of the USDP. The NLD and major ethnic parties boycott the polls. The USDP and its ally, the National Unity Party, comprising former members of Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party, win 76.5 percent and 5.5 percent of the seats, respectively.

Two parties that splintered from the NLD and a Shan ethnic party win several seats in national and regional parliaments.

13 November, 2010 Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and NLD leader, is released from house arrest.

30 March, 2011 Former general Thein Sein takes office as president of the country’s first civilian government in nearly 50 years.

9 June, 2011 Conflict breaks out between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army in northern Burma near the Chinese-backed Ta-pein hydropower dam project. Tens of thousands of people are displaced.

18 August, 2011 Thein Sein formally launches a nationwide ceasefire process with an announcement inviting ethnic armed groups for talks.

19 August, 2011 – Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi meet for the first time in Naypyitaw. Suu Kyi later makes positive comments about the president’s intentions.

30 September, 2011 – Thein Sein suspends the controversial Myitsone dam project for the duration of his government. The Chinese-backed project had been widely opposed among the Kachin and wider public.

30 November, 2011 – Hillary Clinton becomes the first US secretary of state to visit Burma since 1955. She meets both Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi in the first sign of the country’s re-engagement with the West after almost half a century of sanctions and isolation.

13 January, 2012 – The government releases key political prisoners, including the 88 Generation student leaders that led the 1988 uprising. Journalists and ethnic leaders are also among the released.

1 April, 2012 – The NLD wins in 43 out of 44 constituencies it contests, including the capital Naypyitaw, in by-elections. Suu Kyi becomes a member of parliament.

13 April, 2012 – A parade of dignitaries continues to visit Burma, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, who calls for economic sanctions to be lifted.

8 June, 2012 – A bout of inter-communal violence erupts in northern Arakan State as Buddhist Arakanese clash with stateless Rohingya Muslims.

20 August, 2012 – The Ministry of Information ends pre-publication censorship, lifting decades-old, draconian media restrictions.

21 October, 2012 – Sectarian violence spreads and thousands flee their homes in Arakan; some 140,000 people remain displaced to this day, a majority of them Rohingya. The Muslim population begins an exodus by sea.

19 November, 2012 – Barack Obama visits Burma, becoming the first sitting American president to visit the country.

20 March, 2013 – A dispute between a Buddhist customer and a Muslim owner of a gold shop in Meikhtila triggers inter-communal violence that rages for four days, killing at least 43 people.

30 May, 2013 – The government and Kachin rebels hold a meeting and a large-scale fighting subsides, but no ceasefire is reached.

22 April, 2013 – The European Union lifts all remaining sanctions against Burma, except those on arms sales. The United States suspended its sanctions a few months earlier, retaining a blacklist for businessmen with ties to the former junta.

21 June, 2013 – The Patriotic Association of Myanmar, better known by its Burmese acronym Ma-Ba-Tha, is formed at a conference of nationalist Buddhist monks. It calls for new laws to protect “race and religion.”

2 July, 2014 – Buddhist-Muslim riots occur in Mandalay that leave two dead, after prominent monk Wirathu spreads rumours on Facebook that a Muslim had raped a Buddhism woman.


9 February, 2015 – Fighting erupts in the Kokang Region in northern Shan State after Kokang rebels attack bases of government forces. The clashes displace tens of thousands, mostly ethnic Chinese Kokang.

19 May, 2015 – Thein Sein signs the first of four controversial “race and religious protection” bills proposed by Ma-Ba-Tha. The president will later endorse all bills, meeting little resistance in the USDP-dominated parliament.

25 June, 2015 – Army officers and USDP MPs block a vote to change a key clause of the constitution, ending a parliamentary effort to amend the army’s veto over constitutional change.

3 July, 2015 – A senior official from Thein Sein’s office tells Reuters he will not run in the parliamentary elections, citing health concerns, but says he could still be nominated by parliament for a second term as president.

8 July, 2015 – The Union Election Commission announces general elections will take place on Sunday 8 November. Later, 93 political parties and 6,074 candidates will register to contest the elections.

12 August, 2015 – Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann is removed as ruling party chief in an internal USDP purge.

8 September, 2015 – Campaigning for the general election starts.

20 September, 2015 – Error-riddled voter lists are displayed for a second time during a second and final round in which voters can correct their registration for the polls.

13 October, 2015 – The Union Election Commission floats, and then retracts, the idea of postponing the elections because of a flood disasters in June and July.

15 October, 2015 – The Karen National Union, the Democratic Benevolent Karen Army and the Shan State Army-South, along with four minor ethnic rebel groups sign a ceasefire agreement with the government. However, the accord excludes other powerful rebel groups such as the Kachin Independence Army and the United Wa State Army.



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