US Senate’s Burma Act Balances Economic and Political Development

By Rik Glauert 14 September 2016

RANGOON — The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations announced legislation on Wednesday to support Burma’s economic growth while addressing the country’s human rights issues and need for constitutional reform and national reconciliation.

The Burma Strategy Act of 2016 covers economic assistance, military cooperation, US investment, reforming Burma’s extractive industries, and US sanctions, according to a statement released by the US Senate.

Senior US senators Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, and John McCain, chairman of the Committee on Armed Services, launched the Act of 2016. Both senators will meet with Burma’s State Counselor and Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during her visit to Washington DC this week.

Senator Cardin said the legislation looks to “build on Burma’s progress while being clear-eyed about lingering concerns regarding human rights, the plight of the Rohingya, the role of the military in Burmese society and politics, ethnic and national reconciliation, broad-based economic development, and the constitutional reform necessary to facilitate and complete Burma’s transition,” according to the statement.

The legislation sets out “guidelines and benchmarks” for relieving sanctions based on the US Secretary of State’s assessment of progress on key criteria including democracy, good governance, ethnic reconciliation, legal reforms and the treatment of military-owned enterprises.

The Act authorizes economic assistance to civil society organizations and humanitarian projects and calls on international financial institutions to encourage transparency and accountability in Burma.

It announces the creation of a Burma-American Development Fund to fuel private sector investment in companies that reach international standards for labor, the environment, transparency, corruption, and human rights.

The Act also authorizes limited military to military cooperation, particularly in regards to Burma’s peace process. A Gemstone Strategy Report will support efforts by the National League of Democracy-led government to bring good governance to the mining industry, the statement says.

“This legislation seeks to usher in a new era of relations between our two countries that will support continued progress towards democracy, human rights and peace for the Burmese people,” Senator McCain said. “I look forward to discussing how we can strengthen our ties during Aung San Suu Kyi’s historic visit to Washington this week.”