U.S. Eases Some Myanmar Sanctions on Financial Transactions

The U.S. Treasury Department said today it will ease some sanctions on Myanmar by authorizing financial transactions that support humanitarian, religious and other nonprofit activities in the country.

The decision follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s April 4 announcement that the Obama administration would relax certain sanctions on the country to encourage economic modernization and political reform, and take steps toward appointing an ambassador. Those moves are part of a push by the Obama administration, the U.K. and other European countries to reward and encourage Myanmar’s ruling junta as it makes tentative steps toward democracy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said April 13 during a visit to Myanmar that the European Union should suspend, and not abolish, sanctions apart from an arms embargo at an April 23 meeting. It was the first visit to Myanmar by a British leader since at least 1948, when the Southeast Asian nation, then known as Burma, gained independence from the U.K.

Clinton made her announcement three days after opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner known in Myanmar simply as “The Lady,” led her National League for Democracy party to victory for 43 of 44 seats it contested in by-elections. The military junta kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 years.

President Thein Sein’s ruling party and the military still control more than 80 percent of parliamentary seats.

U.S. Waiver

The U.S. waiver announced today covers democracy and good-governance projects, activities geared to meeting “basic human needs,” sporting and educational activities and religious activities.

Restrictions now in place ban U.S. citizens from making new investments or exporting financial services to the country. Imports of Burmese products and services are also forbidden, and senior Burmese officials are barred from entering the U.S. if they are believed to be guilty of public corruption, human rights violations or having impeded Burma’s democracy.

Clinton said April 4 that sanctions and prohibitions will stay in place on individuals and institutions that remain “on the wrong side of these historic reform efforts.”

The Obama administration will facilitate travel to the U.S. for “select government officials and parliamentarians,” Clinton said.

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