US Waives Visa Restrictions For Burma’s Leader

Posted August 29th, 2012 at 7:55 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama has waived visa restrictions for Burma's president, Thein Sein, to allow him to visit the United States during next month's United Nations General Assembly in New York.

President Obama Wednesday ordered an exception in a visa ban to let Thein Sein travel freely during the U.N. General Assembly. Otherwise, Thein Sein would be confined to a narrow area around the U.N. headquarters due to a U.S. travel ban on Burmese leaders.

U.S. officials say Mr. Obama's decision signals U.S. interest in closer engagement with Burma's government, which is shifting away from decades of authoritarian rule.

U.S. legislation from 2008 bans U.S. investment in Burma and the import of certain goods from the country. It also restricts visas for government and military officials who have been involved in human rights abuses.

Washington has begun to relax some of the sanctions to reward Burma for taking significant steps toward democracy. But the visa ban remains in place.

Since taking power in March of last year, the government of Thein Sein, a former general, has begun releasing political prisoners, relaxing censorship and opening dialogue with the democratic opposition and armed ethnic minority groups.

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is also due to visit the United States next month.