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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.