Obama extends Myanmar sanctions over Rakhine state, other abuses
May 16, 2014 00:00
Washington - President Barack Obama extended economic sanctions against Myanmar on Thursday, amid persistent concerns regarding rights abuses in the country's western state of Rakhine.
The move renews for a year a prohibition on US businesses and individuals from investing in Myanmar or doing business with Myanmar citizens involved in human rights abuses.
"Concerns persist regarding ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas, particularly in Rakhine State," Obama said in a letter to Congress explaining his decision to continue the National Emergencies Act.
Sectarian fighting broke out in 2012 between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine, leaving up to 200 dead and 140,000 displaced, most of them Muslims.
Many Rohingya have lived in Rakhine for generations, but the group has been excluded from eligibility for citizenship.
Despite reforms, "political opening remains nascent," Obama said, "and the continued role of the military in the country's political and economic activities."
"The situation in the country continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."
He praised Myanmar for releasing more than 1,100 political prisoners, progress on ceasefire with various rebel groups, the legalisation of unions, improvements in labour standards, and greater freedom of association and expression.