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

Italian Red Cross Chief: Don't Label Migrants 'Illegal'

Speaking at the United Nations headquarters in New York Wednesday Francesco Rocca says migrants are victims, not criminals More

US Intel Officials Cautious About New IS Threat

Threat, said to have been posted by alleged American member of Islamic State terror group, says Sunday’s attack in Texas ‘is only the beginning’ More

Eyes in Sky Monitor Weather, Predict Epidemics

Satellites track storms, population movements, ocean warming to predict disease conditions 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.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

VOA Blogs