President Obama ends sanctions against Myanmar

Following a September visit to the White House by Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Obama formally ended economic sanctions levied against the Southeast Asian nation on Friday.

In place since 1997, the U.S. began to sanction Myanmar broadly, but were largely intended to target the ruling military junta for human rights abuses.

“I have determined that the situation that gave rise to the national emergency . . . has been significantly altered by Burma’s (Myanmar’s) substantial advances to promote democracy, including historic elections in November 2015,” the president wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.

Beginning with a prohibition on new investment in Myanmar through executive order by Bill Clinton, a string of sanctions against Yangon followed.  In 2003, then-President George W. Bush strengthened the economic embargo with the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act, which froze the assets of some Burmese financial institutions and banned Burmese imports to the U.S.

Under review in 2007 and 2008, Mr. Bush strengthened the sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights abuses, Burmese citizens known to engage in public corruption and those who provided material or financial support to the military junta.

Later, in 2012 and 2013, Mr. Obama extended sanctions further, tightening the embargo to include the freezing of assets and banning the importation of precious gems.

Following March elections which brought sweeping change to Yangon and witnessed the election of U Htin Kyaw as Myanmar’s president, and the elevation of Aung San Suu Kyi to the newly-created position of State Counsellor in April, Mr. Obama stated:

“(Ending sanctions) is the right thing to do in order to ensure that the people of Burma see the rewards from a new way of doing business, and a new government.”

Replacing former junta member Thein Sein, U Htin Kyaw is the first president not associated with the ruling military junta in over five decades.


[Reuters] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via WION]