US eases sanctions on banks, little joy for tycoons

By SEAN GLEESON | FRONTIER

YANGON — US President Barack Obama will today notify congress of the renewal of executive sanctions authority for another 12 months, with the removal of a number of state-owned enterprises and exemptions granted to two banks controlled by military-owned conglomerates.

The changes, to take effect from Wednesday, will not change the status of the 38 Myanmar nationals currently on the US Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list, including a number of notorious tycoons and former junta members.

Senior US officials told reporters on Tuesday evening that the decision was a reflection of the recent democratic transition in Myanmar, while adding that a number of individuals and entities threatened to undermine the country’s fragile political reforms.

Six entities tied to Asia World Group, the conglomerate headed by Steven Law, have been added to the list. They include Pioneer Aerodrome Services, the company contracted to upgrade Yangon International Airport.  

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The Treasury Department’s General License 20 which exempts Asia World’s Yangon port assets from SDN provisions, has now been extended indefinitely. Before the exemption, issued last December after lobbying by US banks, sanctions against Asia World affiliates had choked maritime trade through Myanmar’s main port city.

Executive sanctions will remain in effect against Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation, while an exemption has been granted to Myawaddy Bank and Innwa Bank, the banks operating as subsidiaries of the military-controlled conglomerate.

A number of state-owned banks and enterprises nominally under civilian control, including the Myanma Economic Bank, have been removed from the SDN list completely.

A further exemption has been granted to US citizens residing in Myanmar, allowing the private purchase of goods and services from entities owned by individuals on the SDN list. 

US officials told reporters on Tuesday that the Obama Administration had no plans to seek changes to existing congressional sanctions. 

State-owned entities removed from the list

Myanma Economic Bank
Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank
Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank 
Myanmar Timber Enterprise
Myanmar Pearl Enterprise
Myanmar Gem Enterprise
No. 1 Mining Enterprise
No. 2 Mining Enterprise
No. 3 Mining Enterprise
Co-operative Export-Import Enterprise

Military-owned entities granted exemptions

Innwa Bank
Myawaddy Bank

Asia World affiliates added to the SDN list

Asia Mega Link
Asia Mega Link Services
Pioneer Aerodrome Services
Green Asia Services
Global World Insurance Company Limited
Shwe Nar Wah Company Limited

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