US Suspends Economic Sanctions on Burma

Posted May 17th, 2012 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States has suspended economic sanctions against Burma, which have banned American investment in the country for the last 15 years.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement Thursday in Washington alongside visiting Burmese Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin. She said that Derek Mitchell, the State Department's special representative to Burma, will be nominated as U.S. ambassador to the country.

Her Burmese counterpart, in turn, noted Burma would be sending its own ambassador to Washington and said his country will end its military relations with North Korea.

Clinton urged American businesses and citizens to invest in Burma and “do it responsibility” while being “an agent of positive change” and supporting reforms in the southeast Asian nation. Clinton said she expected U.S. companies will be able to deal in all Burmese sectors unless local reputations or practices of certain companies are not in keeping with U.S. policy of corporate responsibility.

At the same time, Clinton said the United States would maintain its arms embargo on Burma because Washington wants to see a move for the country's armed forces to go under civilian control.

Despite the news, U.S. sanctions against Burma are not completely erased. Earlier in the day, White House officials said President Barack Obama was continuing them for another year. However, Clinton clarified that keeping the “relevant laws on the books” will serve as “an insurance policy” to encourage the Burmese government to continue reforms.

Under international pressure, Burma's military government relinquished power and permitted multi-party elections last year.

Since then, the new, nominally civilian government has released hundreds of political prisoners and cleared the way for the country's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to launch a successful campaign for parliament.

Last month, the European Union suspended a wide range of sanctions against Burma for the next year. Officials said the time-specific easement was to encourage the new government to pursue additional democratic reforms. It also is designed to penalize the government if it fails in the next year to end a series of military conflicts with several key ethnic minority groupings in the eastern and northern parts of the country.