US Lifts Sanctions, Retains Limitations on Military

By The Irrawaddy 15 September 2016

As United States President Barack Obama announces the lifting of economic sanctions on Burma, several restrictions concerning the military and military leaders remain in effect.

The US has eased sanctions on Burma since reform began in 2011 and during a visit from Burma’s State Counselor and de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi this week, has announced its commitment to further lift them following the country’s transition from military regime to greater democracy. Some restrictions remain, pertaining to trade with North Korea, drug trafficking, military influence and the gems trade.

A press release from the US Department of State highlighted  the country’s desire to “support the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma, and work closely with the government to develop new policies to address challenges, including the disproportionate role of the military in the economy and the need for responsible and transparent investment and business practices, in particular in the jadeite and gemstones sector.”

It added that President Obama welcomed Burma’s commitment to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, in an effort to reintegrate into the international financing system.

Along these lines, JADE Act visa ineligibilities remain in place, with respect to former regime leaders and officals involved in the repression of human rights. The JADE Act focuses on stopping anti-democratic activities in addition to preventing those closely tied to the former regime from profiting from the trade of precious gems. Limitations also remain on foreign assistance to Burma’s military.

President Obama announced his intention to terminate the “national emergency” order in respect to Burma —which has authorized sanctions since 1997—and said it would happen “soon.”

This move serves as a testament to the dramatic change that Burma has recently witnessed. The country has its first democratically-elected civilian leadership for the first time in more than 50 years, and is focused on national peace and reconciliation.

But significant challenges remain, in a country that has also seen decades of civil war and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities. Leading up to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit, human rights groups called for the US to retain sanctions and use them as leverage to promote further human rights reform within the country.