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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

US Eases Some Myanmar Sanctions

by Nike Ching May 17, 2016

The Obama administration is further easing financial sanctions on Myanmar to support the nation's political reforms and economic growth, and to facilitate U.S. trade with the country also known as Burma. The United States is continuing other measures, however, in an effort to thwart human rights abuses and military trade with North Korea.

Senior officials made the announcement Tuesday, ahead of Secretary of State John Kerry's visit Sunday to Naypyidaw.

Seven state-owned Myanmar enterprises and three state-owned banks are being removed from the blacklist, according to the amendments by the Treasury Department in consultation with the State Department.

Other regulatory amendments include a general license to authorize trade-related transactions and personal transactions related to Americans residing in Myanmar. Those changes are intended to facilitate trade and the movement of goods within Myanmar.

Military sanctions retained

The United States left in place sanctions on Myanmar's powerful military, because of its major economic interests.

It updated the so-called Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) list, adding six companies to be barred from U.S. business dealings. The businesses are owned 50 percent or more by Steven Law, a tycoon accused of ties to the military, and the heroin trade through a corporation called Asia World.

"Our actions today demonstrate our strong support for this political and economic progress while continuing to pressure designated persons in Burma to change their behavior," Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary of treasure for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

The remaining sanctions on individuals and entities primarily are targeted against those who obstruct political reforms, commit human rights abuses in Myanmar or propagate military trade with North Korea.

Former U.S. Chief of Mission in Myanmar Priscilla Clapp told VOA that while Washington is restructuring the remaining financial sanctions, individuals and entities should be targeted to promote better behavior.

"There is still a need for some form of sanctions against the military, and military elements in the economy because the military has too much control over the economy in the country," she said.

Kerry to visit

Kerry is scheduled to visit Myanmar on Sunday to meet with key leaders to signal U.S. support for the new democratically elected civilian-led government, according to the State Department.

Among seven state-owned enterprises removed from the blacklist are Myanmar Pearl Enterprise and Myanmar Gem Enterprise. But senior U.S. officials said a ban on the import of jadeite and rubies, one of Myanmar's most profitable industries, remains in place.

The U.S. actions announced Tuesday follow a landmark November election in which the party of long-time democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, won a one-sided victory, ending decades of military rule.

In a message to the U.S. Congress, President Barack Obama said Myanmar has made significant reforms since 2011, when it first formed a civilian government. He also said "concerns persist regarding continued obstacles to full civilian control of the government, the ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in the country, particularly in ethnic minority areas, and military trade with North Korea."

VOA's Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.

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