The United States supports a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Burma that respects the human rights of all its peoples. Elections in November 2010 led to a peaceful transition from sixty years of military rule to a quasi-civilian government headed by President Thein Sein. Under President Thein Sein, the Government of Burma has initiated a series of political and economic reforms which have resulted in a substantial opening of the long-isolated country. These reforms include the release of many political prisoners, ceasefire agreements with 12 of 13 major non-state armed groups, greater freedom of the press, and parliamentary by-elections in 2012 in which pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition party won 43 of the 44 seats they contested (out of 45) gaining approximately 11% representation in parliament.
The Obama Administration has employed a calibrated engagement strategy to recognize the positive steps undertaken to date and to incentivize further reform. The guiding principles of this approach have been to support Burma’s political and economic reforms; promote national reconciliation; build government transparency, and accountability and institutions; empower local communities and civil society; and promote responsible international engagement and human rights.
As part of our calibrated approach to support further reform, the United States has restored full diplomatic relations, re-established a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in country, supported assessment missions and technical assistance by international financial institutions, and eased financial and investment sanctions against Burma. President Obama’s trip to Burma in November 2012, the first visit of a sitting U.S. President, demonstrated the United States’ continuing support to Burma in its political and economic reform efforts.
On the eve of President Obama’s visit, the Burmese government articulated its commitment to 11 specific issues covering human rights, including religious freedom, political prisoners, ethnic reconciliation, non-proliferation, good governance, and human trafficking. These commitments include forming a committee to review political prisoner cases; pursuing political dialogue with ethnic minorities; meeting humanitarian needs in Rakhine State and other conflict affected areas; providing for the establishment of a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Burma; and allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross to resume prison visits. In a May 2013 visit to the United States, President Thein Sein and his senior ministers reaffirmed their intention to uphold these commitments.
While notable progress has been made, challenges remain, particularly in resolving tensions and preventing violence in Rakhine State. Also, much more needs to be done to ensure respect for human rights, define a clear role for the military, move from ceasefires to political dialogue, and to improve rule of law and government accountability. The United States continues to emphasize to the Burmese government the importance of promoting values of tolerance, diversity, and peaceful co-existence, and for the Burmese military to completely end military ties with North Korea.
The Administration regularly consults with the U.S. Congress as well as U.S. allies and other international actors in appropriate ways to encourage continued reform in the country.
The military government changed the country name to "Myanmar" in 1989. It remains U.S. policy to refer to the country as Burma in most contexts.
U.S. Assistance to Burma
USAID has been providing humanitarian assistance to Burma since 2000. In 2008, its efforts scaled up in response to the devastation of Cyclone Nargis. In response to Burma's ongoing reforms, the United States re-established the USAID Mission in 2012. U.S. foreign aid aims to deliver effective and efficient assistance and to foster coordination among partners by leveraging U.S. expertise, including from the private sector, academic institutions, civil society organizations, and the Burmese diaspora. In November 2012, President Obama pledged $170 million dollars of assistance over two years that will focus on new and expanded collaboration in the following priority areas: democracy, human rights, and rule of law; transparent governance; peace and reconciliation; health; economic opportunity and food security.
Bilateral Economic Relations
In recognition of Burma's political and economic reform progress, the United States has taken concrete steps over the past two years to help accelerate broad-based economic growth and to recognize and encourage political reform. In July 2012, the Administration issued a general license to authorize the exportation of U.S. financial services to Burma, permitting the first new U.S. investment in Burma in nearly 15 years. In September 2012, the Administration removed President Thein Sein and Speaker Shwe Mann from the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. In September and October 2012, the Administration eased the ban on the export of financial services to Burma to allow assistance and support by the U.S. government and international financial institutions (IFIs). In November 2012, the Administration issued a general license to authorize the importation of Burmese-origin goods into the United States, with the exception of jadeite and rubies mined or extracted from Burma, for the first time in almost a decade. The July 28, 2013 expiration of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act’s (BFDA) ban on imports from Burma formalized this treatment. In 2013, the Administration issued a general license to authorize U.S. persons to conduct most transactions – including opening and maintaining financial accounts and conducting a range of other financial services – with four of Burma’s major financial institutions: Asia Green Development Bank, Ayeyarwady Bank, Myanmar Economic Bank, and Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank.
Burma's Membership in International Organizations
Burma became a member of the United Nations in 1948 following independence from the United Kingdom. Burma and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the UN, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.
Burma maintains an embassy in the United States at 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: (202) 332-3344; fax: (202) 332-4351.
More information about Burma is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
Doing Business in Burma page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Burma Page
USAID Burma Page
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page