Myanmar: Backgrounder with Timelines


1852 – Britain annexes lower Burma, including Rangoon, following the second Anglo-Burmese war.

1885-86 – Britain captures Mandalay after a brief battle; Burma becomes a province of British India.

1937 – Britain separates Burma from India and makes it a crown colony.


Japanese occupation

1942 – Japan invades and occupies Burma with some help from the Japanese-trained Burma Independence Army, which later transforms itself into the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) and resists Japanese rule.

1945 – Britain liberates Burma from Japanese occupation with help from the AFPFL, led by Aung San.

1947 – Aung San and six members of his interim government assassinated by political opponents led by U Saw, a nationalist rival of Aung San’s. U Nu, foreign minister in Ba Maw’s government, which ruled Burma during the Japanese occupation, asked to head the AFPFL and the government.



1948 – Burma becomes independent with U Nu as prime minister.

Mid-1950s – U Nu, together with Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Indonesian President Sukarno, Yugoslav President Tito and Egyptian President Nasser co-found the Movement of Non-Aligned States.

1958-60 – Caretaker government, led by army Chief of Staff General Ne Win, formed following a split in the ruling AFPFL party.

1960 – U Nu’s party faction wins decisive victory in elections, but his promotion of Buddhism as the state religion and his tolerance of separatism angers the military.


One-party, military-led state:

1962 – U Nu’s faction ousted in military coup led by Gen Ne Win, who abolishes the federal system and inaugurates “the Burmese Way to Socialism” – nationalising the economy, forming a single-party state with the Socialist Programme Party as the sole political party, and banning independent newspapers.

Burma’s military junta

1974 – New constitution comes into effect, transferring power from the armed forces to a People’s Assembly headed by Ne Win and other former military leaders; body of former United Nations secretary-general U Thant returned to Burma for burial.

1975 – Opposition National Democratic Front formed by regionally-based minority groups, who mounted guerrilla insurgencies.

1982 – Law designating people of non-indigenous background as “associate citizens” in effect bars such people from public office.


Riots and repression:

1987 – Currency devaluation wipes out many people’s savings and triggers anti-government riots.

1988 – Thousands of people are killed in anti-government riots. The State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) is formed.

1989 – Slorc declares martial law, arrests thousands of people, including advocates of democracy and human rights, renames Burma ‘Myanmar’, with the capital, Rangoon, becoming Yangon. NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, is put under house arrest.


Thwarted elections


Anti-government protests in 1988 triggered martial law and mass arrests

1990 – Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) wins landslide victory in general election, but the result is ignored by the military.

1991 – Aung San Suu Kyi awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her commitment to peaceful change.

1992 – Than Shwe replaces Saw Maung as Slorc chairman, prime minister and defence minister. Several political prisoners freed in bid to improve Myanmar’s international image.

1995 – Aung San Suu Kyi is released from house arrest after six years.

1996 – Aung San Suu Kyi attends first NLD congress since her release; Slorc arrests more than 200 delegates on their way to party congress.

1997 – Burma admitted to Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean); Slorc renamed State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).


Release of pro-democracy supporters:

2000 September – Ruling council lifts restrictions on movements of Aung San Suu Kyi and senior NLD members.

2000 October – Aung San Suu Kyi begins secret talks with ruling council.

2001 Ruling council releases some 200 pro-democracy activists. Government says releases reflect progress in talks with opposition NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi who remains under house arrest.


Conflicting signals:

2002 May – Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi released after nearly 20 months of house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi taken into “protective custody” after clashes between her supporters and those of government.

2003 November – Five senior NLD leaders released from house arrest after visit of UN human rights envoy.

2004 January – Government and Karen National Union – most significant ethnic group fighting government – agree to end hostilities.

2004 May – Constitutional convention begins, despite boycott by National League for Democracy (NLD) whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. The convention adjourns in July.

New capital:

2005 November – Myanmar says its seat of government is moving to a new site near the central town of Pyinmana; it is later given the name Nay Pyi Taw.

2007 January – China and Russia veto a draft US resolution at the UN Security Council urging Myanmar to stop persecuting minority and opposition groups.

2008 January- A series of bomb blasts hits the country. State media blame “insurgent destructionists”, including ethnic Karen rebels.

2008 April – Government publishes proposed new constitution, which allocates a quarter of seats in parliament to the military and bans opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from holding office.


Cyclone Nargis

2008 May – Cyclone Nargis hits the low-lying Irrawaddy delta. Some estimates put the death toll as high as 134,000.

 The regime was accused of blocking aid, refusing initial access to humanitarian workers

Referendum on new constitution proceeds amid humanitarian crisis following cyclone. Government says 92% voted in favour of draft constitution and insists it can cope with cyclone aftermath without foreign help.

Junta renews Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest.

2008 November – Dozens of political activists given sentences of up to 65 years in series of secretive trials.

2008 December – Government signs deal with consortium of four foreign firms to pipe natural gas into neighbouring China, despite protests from human rights groups.

2009 January – Thailand expels hundreds of members of Muslim Rohingya minority who appeared off its coast. Myanmar denies the minority’s existence. Several hundred Rohingyas are subsequently rescued from boats off the coast of Indonesia.

2009 April – The National League for Democracy (NLD) main opposition group offers to take part in planned elections if the government frees all political prisoners, changes the constitution and admits international observers.

2009 May – The EU extends the 2006 sanctions for another year, but adds that they can be reviewed in the event of moves towards democracy.

UN and aid agencies say hundreds of thousands in the Irrawaddy Delta still need assistance a year after Cyclone Nargis. The UN says Myanmar now allows it to bring in all the staff it needs.

Aung San Suu Kyi trial:

2009 August – Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is convicted of breaching conditions of her house arrest, following visit by an uninvited US national in May. The initial sentence of three years’ imprisonment is commuted to 18 months’ house arrest.

The main military-backed party claimed victory in the 2010 election

2009 September – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announces plans for engagement with military rulers.

2009 October – Aung San Suu Kyi begins talks with Myanmar’s military leaders and is allowed to meet Western diplomats.

2010 March – Government announces that long-awaited election laws have been passed, with provisions for an electoral commission hand-picked by the junta.

NLD votes to boycott polls. A splinter party – National Democratic Front (NDF) – later gains legal status and plans to compete in polls.

2010 October – Government changes country’s flag, national anthem and official name.

2010 November – Main military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), claims resounding victory in first election for 20 years. Opposition groups allege widespread fraud and the election is widely condemned as a sham. The junta says the election marks the transition from military rule to a civilian democracy.

Junta retires to wings:

2011 March – Thein Sein is sworn in as president of a new, nominally civilian government.

2011 August – President Thein Sein meets Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw.

2011 September – President Thein Sein suspends construction of controversial Chinese-funded Myitsone hydroelectric dam, in move seen as showing greater openness to public opinion.

2011 October – Some political prisoners are freed as part of a general amnesty. New labour laws allowing unions are passed.

2011 November- Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she will stand for election to parliament, as her party rejoins the political process.

2011 December  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits, meets Aung San Suu Kyi and holds talks with President Thein Sein. US offers to improve relations if democratic reforms continue.

Re-publication censorship was scrapped in 2012, but state control of media remains strong

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

Burmese authorities agree truce deal with rebels of Shan ethnic group and orders military to stop operations against ethnic Kachin rebels.

2012 January – Government signs ceasefire with rebels of Karen ethnic group.

Partly-free elections held:

2012 April – NLD candidates sweep the board in parliamentary by-elections, with Aung San Suu Kyi elected. The European Union suspends all non-military sanctions against Burma for a year.

2012 May – Manmohan Singh pays first official visit by an Indian prime minister since 1987.

2012 August – President Thein Sein sets up commission to investigate violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the west, in which dozens have died.

Myanmar abolishes pre-publication media censorship.

President Thein Sein tells the BBC he would accept opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as president if she were elected.


Foreign ties:

2012 November – Visiting European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso offers Myanmar more than $100m in development aid.

Around 90 people are killed in a renewed bout of communal violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.

US President Barack Obama visits to offer “the hand of friendship” in return for more reforms. He urges reconciliation with the Rohingya minority.

2013 January-February – The army surrounds Laiza, the biggest town controlled by Kachin rebels. The government and rebels agree to disengage and start a political dialogue after Chinese-sponsored talks.

2013 March – Rioting between Muslims and Buddhists in Meiktila, south of Mandalay, leaves at least 10 people dead.

2013 April – Four private daily newspapers appear for the first time in almost 50 years as the state monopoly ends.


Violence has flared between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine province

2013 May – President Thein Sein visits Washington. President Obama praises Myanmar’s political and economic progress, but criticises violence against Rohingya Muslims.

Six Muslims are jailed over the Meiktila clashes in March. No Buddhists are convicted.

2014 April – At least 22 people are killed in fighting between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels in the north.

Government announces release of 3,000 prisoners. Burma watchers say most are petty criminals, but include ex-military intelligence officers imprisoned along with former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, who was freed in 2012.

2015 February – Flare-up in fighting with Kokang separatists in Shan State near the border with China leaves nearly 50 soldiers dead. Government puts Kokang region under temporary martial law.

Government withdraws temporary voting rights from Muslim Rohingyas ahead of proposed constitutional referendum, following street protests by Buddhists.


Peace hopes:

2015 March – A draft ceasefire agreement is signed between the government and 16 rebel groups.

2015 May – Hundreds of Muslim Rohingyas migrants leave by sea in flimsy boats, along with migrants from Bangladesh. UN criticizes failure of south-east Asian states to rescue them.

2015 July-August – Floods affect much of low-lying parts of country, killing 100 people and displacing a million others.

2015 November – Opposition National League for Democracy – led by Aung San Suu Kyi – wins enough seats in parliamentary elections to form a government.

2016 March – Htin Kyaw sworn in as president, ushering in a new era as Aung San Suu Kyi’s democracy movement takes power after 50 years of military domination.

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By B2B

Revisiting the Basics

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