Timeline: Myanmar's reforms under civilian government

(Reuters) - Myanmar freed about 200 political prisoners, including several prominent dissidents, this week as one of the world’s most reclusive states begins to open up after half a century of iron-fisted rule.

The release follows a series of reforms since a nominally civilian government took power, including the release from house arrest of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Here is a timeline of developments in Myanmar since the country’s first election in 20 years last November:

Nov 9, 2010 - The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party wins election by a landslide, ensuring the armed forces have control over the new legislature.

Nov 13 - Suu Kyi freed from seven years of house arrest. The junta had kept her detained for 15 of the past 21 years because of her opposition to years of military rule. Her National League for Democracy was nominally banned by the regime in September 2010 because it boycotted the election.

Nov 19 - Suu Kyi says she is willing to work with the government.

Jan 28, 2011 - A special appeals court rejects a move by Suu Kyi to have her political party reinstated.

Jan 31 - An elected parliament convenes for the first time in half a century. More than 600 lawmakers are tasked with choosing Myanmar’s first civilian president since a 1962 coup ushered in 49 unbroken years of military dictatorship.

Feb 1 - Reclusive paramount leader Senior General Than Shwe is not among a list of presidential candidates to be nominated by parliament, signaling the end to his 18 years of direct rule.

Feb 4 - Prime Minister Thein Sein is chosen to become the country’s first civilian president in half a century, a shift that appears to do little to end the army’s overwhelming influence on politics.

Feb 12 - Suu Kyi says she sees no reason for Western countries to lift sanctions against the military-dominated government, but the issue had to be discussed.

Feb 19 - The military rulers demand that Suu Kyi’s party apologize to the public for backing Western sanctions they said were restricting the country’s development.

March 30 - Myanmar inaugurates its first civilian government in nearly half a century. Parliament, packed with retired and serving soldiers, dissolves the junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), a formality after the November 2010 election.

May 17 - The government frees about 14,000 prisoners and commutes thousands more sentences in an amnesty critics dismiss as a token gesture aimed at improving its international image. Activists say the majority of those released were common criminals and few were political prisoners.

July 4 - Suu Kyi ventures outside her home city for the first time since her release from house arrest, making a low-key visit to the ancient city of Bagan amid tight security.

July 25 - Suu Kyi holds a rare meeting with a government minister in the first known contact between the 66-year-old and a member of the civilian government.

Aug 18 - Government calls for peace talks with armed separatists along its borders with Thailand and China, the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures toward long-time opponents of the former military regime.

Aug 19 - Suu Kyi meets President Thein Sein, the first meeting between the two, and the latest olive branch from the army-backed regime. It was her first visit to Naypyitaw, a city secretly built five years ago on a mountain plateau about 205 miles north of Myanmar’s old capital and biggest city, Yangon.

Aug 25 - Energy ministry says foreign firms that win a tender in Myanmar to develop 18 new onshore oil and gas blocks will be required to set up joint ventures with local companies.

Sept 15 - Myanmar lifts bans on prominent news websites, including some run by critics of the army-dominated government, and unblocks online video portal YouTube.

Sept 21 - Suu Kyi says she hopes to see signs of change “very soon” in Myanmar.

Oct 12 - Myanmar frees about 200 political prisoners including several prominent dissidents under a general amnesty for 6,359 prisoners.

The United States, Europe and Australia have said freeing Myanmar’s estimated 2,100 political prisoners is essential to even considering lifting sanctions.

Source: Reuters

Compiled by Sugita Katyal; Editing by Nick Macfie