WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury is allowing U.S. companies to do business through four Myanmar banks, although they are on a sanctions list and include institutions controlled by cronies of the former military junta.
The department issued a general license Friday authorizing transactions with the banks, saying it would help promote responsible investment. It supports a July 2012 easing of U.S. investment sanctions to reward the government of President Thein Sein for democratic reforms.
The U.S. Campaign for Burma quickly criticized the move as premature and sending the wrong message because of serious and continuing human rights violations in ethnic conflicts in the north and west of the country.
"Once again, the Obama administration shows a complete disregard for the serious nature of ongoing concerns in Burma, prematurely lifting the ban on banks in Burma without determining if they have met the conditions for removal. The Kachin and Rohingya continue to be persecuted while the U.S. government focuses on financial gains, not consequences for ongoing, systematic atrocities," said Jennifer Quigley, advocacy director for the Washington-based activist group.
U.S. businesses have been urging the administration to loosen its controls on the banks to make it easier to operate in the country also known as Burma and tap into its emerging market. The U.S. is the only nation that still retains such controls on investment in the country. The West has eased tough economic restrictions in the past year.
The license covers the Asia Green Development Bank, Ayeyarwady Bank, Myanma Economic Bank and or Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank.