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David I. Steinberg: Aung San Suu Kyi's sanctions conundrum

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Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar Military Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing arrive for the handover ceremony at national parliament in Naypyitaw on March 30. (Pool photo)   © Reuters

The United States maintains certain sanctions in Myanmar against many individuals, military-led institutions, and other organizations for their involvement in the Southeast Asian nation's unpleasant past. Although the most basic sanctions have been lifted and the country is in the process of moving from military to civilian rule, in order to continue the remaining sanctions regimen, each May the U.S. president must issue an order indicating that "the actions and policies of the Government of Burma continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." 

     This is bizarre considering that the U.S. has opened a trade office, encouraged responsible investment, and is actively engaged in an economic aid program in the country formerly known as Burma. If one were to take the U.S. statement seriously, its government is encouraging its citizens who are involved in these programs to put their safety in jeopardy by operating in Myanmar. Although this is simply a U.S. bureaucratic requirement, how the Burmese or foreign investors may feel about it raises other issues.

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