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US eases Myanmar sanctions

US eases Myanmar sanctions

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Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin attends the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting yesterday. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

The US gave its business community the green light to invest in Myanmar late on Wednesday night, including the country’s rich oil and gas fields, though restrictions remain on who they can do business with.

Shortly after April’s by-elections in Myanmar, also known as Burma, the US announced that it planned to ease the sanctions in recognition of the country’s dramatic transition from five decades of military rule to a limited form of democracy.

“Today, we reviewed progress in Burma, and I announced that the United States is easing sanctions to allow American businesses to invest there,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a press conference at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh yesterday.

But any new investment with Myanmar’s Ministry of Defence, state or non-state armed groups or entities owned by them and individuals on a government blacklist will still be prohibited, according to a statement released by the State Department late on Wednesday.

Firms investing more than US$500,000 will also be required to provide annual reports detailing information on, amongst other things, human rights, worker’s rights, land acquisitions and payments exceeding US$10,000 to Myanmar government entities, the statement reads.

The European Union had already lifted sanctions and Catherine Ashton, high representative of foreign affairs and security policy, praised the US for taking similar action on the sidelines of the summit yesterday.

“We’ve got teams going in all the time to offer them support. There’s still more reform to do, but we’re very pleased.

“I think it’s just fantastic to see that investment can come into the country. I think it’s good for the country that they’ll have choices and they’ll see differences.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party welcomed a US decision to ease Myanmar sanctions yesterday, but the opposition leader demanded more “transparency” as foreign firms hungrily eye the country’s energy sector.

Myanmar President Thein Sein will join Clinton, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for a US-ASEAN business forum in Siem Reap today.

To contact the reporters on this story: David Boyle at [email protected]
Cheang Sokha at [email protected]
With assistance from Shane Worrell

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