Treasury loosens sanctions on Burma

Treasury loosens sanctions on Burma
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The Department of Treasury loosened several sanctions on Burma Tuesday to bolster trade and business between the country and United States persons and businesses.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) removed sanctions on seven businesses and financial institutions owned by the Burmese government and extended trade licenses for exports to and from Burma.

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The OFAC also lifted a ban on most transactions with Burmese financial institutions and authorized some personal transactions, like paying rent and other living expenses, for U.S. persons living in Burma.

Adam Szubin, acting Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the adjusted sanctions would “facilitate trade with non-sanctioned businesses and, in turn, help the people and Government of Burma achieve a more inclusive and prosperous future.”

Burma, a Southeast Asian country also known as Myanmar, had been controlled for decades by an authoritarian government. It’s government in recent years has taken steps toward democratizing. 

“Burma reached a historic milestone over the last year by holding competitive elections and peacefully transitioning to a democratically-elected government,” Szubin said. “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.”

The OFAC also renewed sanctions on Burmese individuals and entities “who obstruct political reform in Burma, commit human rights abuses in Burma, or propagate military trade with North Korea,” it announced. It also sanctioned six companies majority-owned by Steven Law and Asia World, which supported Burma’s former millitary regime.

“The recent elections in Burma indicated a profound desire for change, and while we have seen substantial changes in a number of areas and many signs of progress, there is still more to be done,” said Reps. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), sponsors of 2014 bill that tied aiding Burma to the country meeting democracy-focused benchmarks.

“We remain concerned about some serious human rights issues, including ongoing attacks against ethnic minorities, as well as the military's extraordinary grip on key institutions of power,” the lawmakers said. “Renewing the sanctions authority while easing some sanctions sends a clear message that the United States continues to stand in support of true democratic reform in Burma.”