Treasury Lifts Burma Banking Sanctions

By Matt Cover | February 25, 2013 | 11:50pm EST

President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein at the parliament building in Rangoon on Monday, November 19, 2012. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

( – The Treasury Department lifted banking sanctions on four major Burmese banks Friday as part of an ongoing effort to ease economic sanctions on the long-oppressed East Asian country and bring it into the international community.

Treasury formally allowed American businesses and individuals to conduct business with four Burmese banks, issuing general licenses for each bank making it legal for Americans to do business with the banks.

“Increased access to Burma's banking system for our companies and non-governmental organizations will help to facilitate Burma's continued social and economic development, serve as a model for responsible investment, and help to provide a better future for the Burmese people,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a release.

The U.S. began lifting sanctions against Burma in July 2012 after the nation’s ruling military junta dissolved in 2011 and the new government began instituting reforms aimed at increasing democratic government and human rights.

The junta was considered one of the most repressive and brutal regimes in the world prior to its 2011 dissolution following major international sanctions. Burma’s government is still dominated by its military, which appoints 25 percent of the legislature, and its current president Thein Sein is a former junta member.

Treasury’s move also allows the four Burmese banks – Myanma Economic Bank, Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, Asia Green Development Bank, and Ayeyarwady Bank – to access the U.S. financial system, giving Burma’s struggling financial sector access to American financial markets and business opportunities.

The move keeps the sanction’s laws on the books – only Congress can repeal them – allowing Treasury to reinstate the sanctions should Burma begin backsliding on its reform program.

The U.S. sanctions were originally put in place in response to the Burmese junta’s human rights abuses over the past two decades, with the first sanctions being issued by then-President Clinton in 1997.

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