Military Officials, Cronies Released from US Blacklist
By Kyaw Phyo Tha 8 October 2016
RANGOON — Burma’s former dictator Snr-Gen Than Shwe was among individuals removed from the US Treasury’s blacklist following the lifting of Burma sanctions on Friday.
Another 16 senior military officials, including former Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, have been removed from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List.
Apart from senior military officials, military-related businesses removed from the list include Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, the Myanmar Economic Corporation, Myawaddy Bank and the Directorate of Defence Industries, which is Burma’s state-owned arms and ordnance manufacturer.
Five top crony business men, along with their family members and businesses, are no longer under sanction; they are U Tay Za, U Khin Shwe, Yuzana U Htay Myint, U Zaw Zaw and Stephen Law, whose late father was once described by the US Treasury as one of the world’s key heroin traffickers.
President Barack Obama formally announced the lifting of US sanctions on Burma on Friday by terminating an emergency order that deemed the policies of the former military government a threat to US national security.
The move followed a meeting between Burma’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Obama in Washington last month, in which she called for the lifting of economic sanctions against her country.
More than 50 individuals along with their families and their businesses in hotels, agriculture, construction, banking, and logging were released from sanctions on Friday.
A key figure is Lt–Gen Thein Htay, chief of the Directorate of Defence Industries, who was blacklisted in 2013 for alleged arms trading with North Korea.
Another three Burmese firms, Soe Min Htike Co. Ltd., Asia Metal Company and Excellence Mineral Manufacturing Company, sanctioned in 2013 for working with North Korea, have been removed from the SDN list.
Also among the individuals are family members of Thura U Shwe Mann, a former Union Solidarity and Development Party chairman and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s close ally from the previous U Thein Sein government. He is a former general and was considered the third most powerful man in the State Peace and Development Council.
His wife Daw Khin Lay Thet and son U Aung Thet Mann—who is the CEO of Ayer Shwe Wah, a subsidiary of Htoo Trading Company owned by U Tay Za—are also no longer sanctioned.
The lifting of sanctions was welcomed by Burma’s business community on Saturday.
U Khin Shwe, the president of Zay Gabar Company who was also removed from the list, said it was “a very nice move” by the US government “at the right time” as Burma now has a civilian government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Any delay in lifting sanctions could lead to backsliding in the country’s democratic transition as Burma is in urgent need of economic development,” he told The Irrawaddy.
“We [businesspeople removed from the list] can create jobs for thousands of people when international investment comes in,” he added. U Khin Shwe explained that the sanction lift will encourage other countries, aside from the US and EU countries, to invest in Burma, such as South Korea.
“They will no longer feel reluctant to work with us as there are no sanctions,” he said.
The US Treasury Department said the termination of the Burma sanctions program does not impact Burmese individuals or entities blocked pursuant to other sanctions authorities, such as counter-narcotics and North Korea sanctions, barring any business dealings with the US.
They include alleged drugs kingpin Wei Hsueh Kang and the United Wa State Army, one of Burma’s biggest ethnic armed groups. They remain on the SDN List, and their property and interests in property remain blocked.