The End of Burma (Myanmar) Sanctions

Burma Sanctions program ended by President Obama executive actionOn September 14th,  President Obama pledged to lift all of the economic sanctions against Myanmar or Burma. This was a broad regime-focused sanctions program that had been in place for almost two decades.

In May of 1997, President Bill Clinton issued an executive order declaring a national emergency with respect to the actions and policies of the military junta that was governing Burma, specifically related to the repression of the democratic opposition and related activities. This Burma Sanctions Program was one of the country-based sanctions programs, which means that the sanctions prohibited not just transactions with particular people, but transactions with the then-ruling military junta or Burma, generally speaking.

In this way, it is similar to the sanctions programs for Iran, Sudan, Syria, Cuba and North Korea, but different from the smart sanctions approach, which only targets specific individuals and entities. The Burma Sanctions have changed a lot over time and there have been a number of different executive orders which have been issued, including Executive Order 13047, which was issued by President Bill Clinton on May 28th of 1997, as well as the congressional laws Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003; an additional Executive Order 13310 on July 28, 2003; Executive Order 13448, which was issued on October 18, 2007; Executive Order 13464, which was issued on April 30, 2008; the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008, which was signed into law on July 29th of that year; Executive Order 13619, which was issued by President Barack Obama on July 11, 2012; Executive Order 13651, which was issued by President Barack Obama on August 6, 2013; and now Obama’s pledge to withhold the sanctions regarding Myanmar.

This pledge to lift sanctions by the president is not necessarily surprising, but the effect of it will be felt much more quickly than the way some of the other sanctions programs have wound down over time.

Specifically, as the Office of Foreign Assets Control or OFAC is part of the Department of Treasury and the Executive branch, Obama’s pledge to no longer enforce and to lift the sanctions regarding Myanmar means that OFAC was unlikely to be pursuing Burma related actions, even before OFAC officially repealed the regulations found in 31 CFR Section 537.

For two years now, the sanctions on Burma have been steadily being scaled back. This has been in response to some pro-democratic activity in Burma, and the lifting of sanctions was implemented to demonstrate that the United States was happy with the activity taking place in Burma and that it would be responsive to Burma’s pro-democracy developments.

If you have questions about how your company should be dealing with the 2016 change to Burma Sanctions, feel free to call and learn more about the appropriate adjustments to your compliance program over the next several months as Obama’s pledge is fully implemented by the federal government.

This blog is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.