Fighting in north of the country between government forces and ethnic groups has displaced some 100,000 people since 2011. This week’s peace talks are a bid to move the stalled peace process forward.
The 2015 elections are seen as a crucial test of the credibility of reforms begun in 2011, when the junta stepped aside to make way for a quasi-civilian regime dominated by former generals. Democracy icon Aung San suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party are expected to make big gains at the polls - the first general election they have fought since they swept 1990 polls. The then-junta ignored the result. However the current constitution bars Suu Kyi from running in a presidential election, due to the foreign nationality of immediate members of her family. Since coming to power, the civilian government led by President Thein Sein has improved relations with the West while reducing its dependence on long-time backer China.