Wed 19 Sep 2012
Filed under: International,News
WASHINGTON – The United States on Wednesday removed sanctions that blocked any U.S. assets of Myanmar’s president and the speaker of its lower house of parliament and that generally barred American companies from dealing with them.
President Thein Sein and lower house speaker Shwe Mann, once members of the former military junta who have won international praise for driving reforms in the 18 months since the military ceded power, were both removed from the U.S. Treasury’s list of “specially designated nationals.”
The decision came as opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was in Washington on Wednesday to meet President Barack Obama and to receive a congressional gold medal.
It also occurs ahead of Thein Sein’s visit to New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly next week, when he is expected to meet senior U.S. officials.
Suu Kyi’s election to parliament in April helped transform Myanmar’s pariah image and convince the West to begin rolling back sanctions after a year of dramatic reforms, including the release of about 700 political prisoners in amnesties between May 2011 and July.
The country’s state television said on Monday an additional 514 prisoners – including at least 80 political prisoners according to rights activists – have been given amnesty.
The United States has repeatedly called for all remaining dissidents to be freed, suggesting this may be a pre-condition for further economic rewards, including a relaxation of a ban on imports of Myanmar-made products imposed years ago in response to human rights abuses under the 1962-2011 military regimes.