December 2011, the Obama Administration has waived many of the existing
sanctions specifically imposed on Burma in an effort to promote greater
political and economic reform in the country. Having waived most of the
sanctions for which he had the authority to do so, President Obama may
approach the 113th Congress about the selective repeal
or removal of one or more of the current sanctions on Burma. In addition,
the 113th Congress may consider either the imposition
of additional sanctions or the removal of some of the existing sanctions on
Burma, depending on the conduct of the Burmese government and other
developments in the country.
Existing U.S. sanctions on Burma are based on various U.S. laws and
presidential executive orders. This report provides a brief history of
U.S. policy towards Burma and the development of U.S. sanctions, a topical
summary of those sanctions, and an overview of actions taken to waive or
ease those sanctions by the Obama Administration. The report concludes with a
discussion of actions taken by the 112th Congress
and options for 113th Congress.
Current U.S. sanctions on Burma can be generally divided into several broad
categories, such as visa bans, restrictions on financial services,
prohibitions of Burmese imported goods, a ban on new investments in Burma,
and constraints on U.S. assistance to Burma.
The current U.S. sanctions on Burma were enacted, for the most part, due to
what the U.S. government saw as a general disregard by Burma’s ruling
military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), for the
human rights and civil liberties of the people of Burma. Burma-specific
sanctions began following the Burmese military’s violent suppression of popular protests
in 1988, and have continued through several subsequent periods in which
Congress perceived major human rights violations in Burma. The result is a
web of overlapping sanctions with differing restrictions, waiver
provisions, expiration conditions, and reporting requirements.
In addition to the targeted sanctions, Burma is currently subject to certain
sanctions specified in U.S. laws addressing various functional issues. In
many cases, the type of assistance or relations restricted or prohibited
by these provisions is also addressed under Burma-specific sanction laws. The
functional issues include the use of child soldiers, drug trafficking, human
trafficking, money laundering, failure to protect religious freedoms,
violations of workers’ rights, and threats to world peace and the security
of the United States.
On March 30, 2011, the SPDC formally dissolved itself and transferred power to
a nominally civilian government known as the Union Government, headed by
President Thein Sein, exgeneral and former prime minister for the SPDC.
President Thein Sein, with the support of Burma’s Union Parliament, has
implemented a number of political and economic reforms, to which the Obama
Administration has responded by waiving or easing sanctions. However, the continuation
of serious human rights abuses has raised questions about the extent to which
there has been significant political change in Burma, and if the easing of
sanctions has been warranted.
Date of Report: January 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 44 Order Number: R42939 Price: $29.95
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