Obama administration lifts Burma visa ban

“The broad travel restriction was implemented in 1996, largely in response to the then-military regime’s poor human rights practices, including repression of the pro-democracy National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition political party. Since 2011, the civilian-led Government of Burma has taken important steps toward significant social, political, and economic reform that demonstrate substantial progress on areas of concern emphasized in the 1996 Proclamation. These reforms include legislative by-elections in 2012, in which the NLD contested and successfully secured seats in the Burmese Parliament.”

Separately, President Obama renewed for a year the national emergency with respect to Burma, first declared in 1997, which enables the administration to keep current sanctions in place.

“Despite great strides that Burma has made in its reform effort,” Obama wrote to House and Senate leaders, “the situation in the country to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

The administration had great hopes for the long-reclusive country following parliamentary by-elections in 2011, which were followed by the nomination of Derek Mitchell to be the first U.S. ambassador since 1990 and President Obama's historic visit late last year. Since then, however, a surge of ethnic and religious violence has dampened Western hopes for a quick transition to full democracy.