The U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday it removed sanctions on two top Myanmar officials as the country continues being welcomed back into the international community.
The removal gives Myanmar President Thein Sein and Lower House of Parliament Speaker Thura Shwe Mann access to once-blocked property and assets, and allows Americans to do business with them.
Treasury said the removals acknowledge the efforts of the pair on behalf of reform.
"Thein Sein and Thura Shwe Mann have taken concrete steps to promote political reforms and human rights, and to move Burma away from repression and dictatorship toward democracy and freedom, warranting today's delisting action," said David Cohen, undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement. Washington continues to maintain an import ban on Myanmar products, which Myanmar officials are pressing hard to get removed. Lifting the ban would help jumpstart Myanmar's economy, its leaders say, but Washington has held back in the hopes of seeing more reforms in the former militarized state. Washington also has kept a number of other top Myanmar businessmen on its list of targeted sanctions, meaning U.S. companies still can't work with many of the country's most-established business leaders.
The U.S. Treasury move Wednesday came as opposition leadersome activists criticized Myanmar's government for not including more political prisoners in a general amnesty announced earlier this week. Opposition leaders and activists said the release of more than 500 prisoners only included about 90 political detainees. Although estimates of the total number of political prisoners behind bars vary, activists say several hundred are likely still detained after a series of prisoner releases over the past year.Treasury said Mr. Thein Sein has supported far-reaching reforms in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, since taking office in 2011 after the country's former strongman leader, Than Shwe, retired. Among them is his dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. Earlier, U.S. lawmakers awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress's highest civilian honor. "Going forward, additional listings or delistings will be pursued as appropriate to meet changing conditions in Burma," Treasury said in the statement.
Mr. Thein Sein also granted amnesty to hundreds of political prisoners over the past year and oversaw elections that saw Ms. Suu Kyi and other members of her opposition party win seats in parliament, Treasury said.
Mr. Shwe Mann has supported Mr. Thein Sein's reforms, and the Myanmar Parliament under his leadership has passed bills that granted the release of political prisoners and a law that allowed for the formation of unions, Treasury said.
U.S. sanctions against certain senior Myanmar government officials for repressive policies were imposed, Treasury said, to motivate them to abandon policies of repression and move them to support human rights and political reform. Write to Samuel Rubenfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared September 19, 2012, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: U.S. Treasury Lifts Sanctions On Top Myanmar Officials.