News / Asia

Obama Formally Eases Burma Sanctions

U.S. Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell (L) poses for a photograph next to Burmese President Thein Sein at his residence in Naypyidaw on July 11, 2012.
U.S. Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell (L) poses for a photograph next to Burmese President Thein Sein at his residence in Naypyidaw on July 11, 2012.
WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama has ordered the easing of U.S. sanctions that have prevented American companies from doing business in Burma, to signal U.S. support for reform steps under way there.  But , there are conditions, and Mr. Obama took another step aimed at individuals who are undermining the reform process.

In a written statement, Obama said U.S. companies will be permitted to operate "responsibly" in Burma, but will be prohibited from dealing with Burma's military or entities owned by the Ministry of Defense.

The U.S. move was expected, as was a requirement in the executive order Obama signed to require that companies report on their activities in line with what are called "international corporate governance standards."

The president signed another order expanding sanctions on senior officials and individuals "who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict, or participate in military trade with North Korea."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the step is meant to send a clear message about the kind of behavior the United States expects as reform steps continue.

"The measures announced today are designed to recognize the progress that has been made on reform, but retain all the authorities to ensure that those individuals who continue, or companies that continue, to engage in corrupt or destabilizing behavior do not benefit," said Carney.

Carney sidestepped a reporter's question about whether the steps announced Wednesday will open the door for U.S. energy companies to do business with state-owned energy companies in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is now a member of Burma's parliament after spending years under house arrest, has expressed concerns about foreign investment with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

Ernest Bower of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says U.S. sanctions on Burma imposed in the 1990s have deprived U.S. companies of investment opportunities.

Bower says U.S. companies will have to exercise caution in whom they choose to do business with.  But overall, he says easing sanctions may enhance U.S. leverage to urge Burma's government to speed up progress on reforms.

"We gain a lot by trying to provide some economic momentum to the reforms so they keep moving in this direction rather than think about sliding backwards and so American companies can engage and benefit from the new growth that may come in Myanmar and also share their values," said Bower.

The breakthrough in relations with Burma began last year in response to reform moves by the government.  It included a visit to Burma by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the appointment of an ambassador, Derek Mitchell, who took up his post this week.

Washington welcomed the return of Aung San Suu Kyi to the political scene, praised the release of political prisoners, and supported cease-fire talks between Burma's government and armed ethnic groups.

But the U.S. has also moved cautiously.  In May, President Obama extended the technical "national emergency" regarding Burma, citing concerns about ongoing conflict and serious human rights abuses in ethnic areas.

David Steinberg is Distinguished Professor of Asian Studies at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.  He says the question regarding sanctions is not so much one of increased leverage but how to implement reforms.

"The capacity to deal with all these issues including health, education, investment, foreign investment, all the kinds of industries that are necessary to make that country work, these things are very, very tough in a country that has lost its capacity to implement effectively," said Steinberg.

President Obama on Wednesday called Burma's political and economic reforms "unfinished," but said "responsible investment will help facilitate broad-based economic development, and help bring Burma out of isolation and into the international community."

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: thach sem from: khmer krom
July 11, 2012 11:21 PM
Don't shake the hands of these dictators who used to murder their own people. Mr. Obama, you are too hurry to lift the sanctions for this regime, you very prone to believe the dictators. Hopefully, American will use its influence and power to remove all the so-called power suckers around the world. God bless uncle Sam.

by: Vaméri from: US
July 11, 2012 10:20 PM
Woooof! There are thousands business entities owned by the Ministry of Defense in Vietnam too. Do they have the same deals ?

by: Anonymous
July 11, 2012 5:38 PM
Uncle Sam doesn't shake their hands, Mao's sons will do.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs