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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid