Obama eases sanctions against Myanmar

 US President Barack Obama has eased sanctions on Myanmar, allowing American companies to do business in the southeast Asian country.

In his statement Wednesday, the president called the move "a strong signal" of US support for reform undergoing in Myanmar, and noted  the government "has continued to make important economic and political reforms" following "significant" progress along the path to democracy.

In his executive order on easing the sanctions, Obama cited progress made toward political reform by the government of Myanmar headed by President U Thein Sein which took office in March 2011.

This included the release of hundreds of political prisoners, ceasefire talks with several armed ethnic groups, and a "substantive" dialogue with the opposition, reported Xinhua.
Obama also expressed "deep concern" about what he called "the lack of transparency" in the country's investment environment and the military's role in the economy.

In addition, Obama authorized expanded sanctions against those who undermine Myanmar's reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict, or participate in military trade with Pyongyang.

"This order is a clear message to Burmese government and military officials: those individuals who continue to engage in abusive, corrupt or destabilizing behaviour going forward will not reap the rewards of reform," he said.

Washington imposed sanctions on Myanmar in May 1997 and expanded these over the years. Under these, US investment and all imports from Myanmar have been banned, assets of certain financial institutions in Myanmar frozen, and visa restrictions imposed on officials of the Myanmar government.

Bilateral relations have improved following the visit to Myanmar of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December last year.

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