NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Washington plans to renew most of its sanctions against Myanmar when they terminate next week, though the US will make some adjustments aimed at boosting investment and trade with the Asian country.
An announcement on extending considerable portions of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act may be made as soon as May 17 prior to an upcoming visit to Myanmar by US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 22, the Guardian reported Saturday citing senior American officials and congressional aides.
The development comes as the US Treasury Department has drastically eased sanctions against Myanmar’s government, infamous for carrying out massive human rights abuses against its Rohingya Muslim minority, by issuing general licenses that give companies and investors exemptions to sanctions that target over 100 individuals and businesses, including some of Myanmar’s biggest business figures.
Washington began lifting trade and financial sanctions against Myanmar after its military leaders launched reforms that brought about a civilian government in 2011.
The US Treasury temporarily relaxed trade restrictions on the country in December 2015 by allowing all shipments to go through its ports and airports for six months.
Myanmar’s first and current State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi supported the extension of US sanctions with some changes, according to the report, citing American officials that spoke on condition of anonymity.
Discussions with Suu Kyi have focused on how to properly target trade restrictions so they do not hurt Myanmar’s overall economy, but keep pressure on military-owned institutions, the officials added.
“We are looking to take steps to demonstrate our support for the new democratically elected government of Burma (Myanmar) … and that we’re taking the necessary steps to ensure that they succeed, that they can carry on economic developments and reforms,” said a senior US administration official.
Kerry’s visit to Myanmar is his first since the party of Myanmar’s Nobel laureate Suu Kyi swept to power following a landslide election win in November last year. A constitution drafted by the country’s former military rulers prohibits her from becoming president.
This is while the US has also expressed deep concerns over the human rights conditions in largely Buddhist Myanmar, particularly the violence against ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya.
Meanwhile, the new US ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marciel, said earlier this week that he would continue using the term Rohingya for the persecuted Muslim minority despite official pleas by Suu Kyi’s government to avoid it.
Members of the 1.1 million-strong group, most of whom live in desperate conditions in a remote part of northwestern Myanmar, are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by many Myanmar officials.