More information about Burma is available on the Burma page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States supports a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Burma that respects the human rights of all its people. While Burma made some progress in its democratic transition over the past decade, since the February 1 military coup, Burma is facing a grave political, economic, human rights, and humanitarian crisis due to a brutal crackdown by a powerful military that acts with impunity.
Elections in 2010 led to a peaceful transition from sixty years of authoritarian rule to a quasi-civilian government headed by former general Thein Sein. Under President Thein Sein, the Government of Burma initiated a series of political and economic reforms that resulted in a substantial opening of the long-isolated country. These reforms include the release of hundreds of political prisoners and child soldiers, the signing of a cease-fire agreement with eight major non-state ethnic armed groups, greater enjoyment of freedom of expression, including by the press, and parliamentary by-elections in 2012 in which pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 43 of the 45 contested seats. In historic national elections in 2015, the NLD won a majority of the total seats in the national parliament and in most state and regional parliaments. Despite significant structural and constitutional problems, including the reservation of 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military, enough to block any constitutional amendments; the disfranchisement of groups of people who had voted in previous elections, including ethnic Rohingya, most of whom are Muslim; and the disqualification of candidates based on arbitrary application of citizenship and residency requirements, the 2015 elections represented a fundamental step forward in Burma’s democratic transition.
Following an increase of military violence in northern Rakhine state against Rohingya in 2016 and small scale attacks by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents on security forces in August 2017, the Burmese security forces committed horrific atrocities including killings, rapes, and torture against Rohingya as part of a “clearance operations,” which led more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee northern Rakhine State to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. In November 2017, then-Secretary Tillerson concluded that the situation in northern Rakhine state constituted ethnic cleansing of Rohingya. Since December 2017, the United States has imposed visa restrictions under Section 7031(c) of the State Appropriations Act, as well as financial sanctions on Burmese officials in connection with abuses in northern Rakhine State, to include, in December 2019, the designation of Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy General Soe.
On February 1, 2021, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing launched a military coup d’état. The military seized power, deposed the democratically elected government, and detained Aung San Suu Kyi andother key leaders of the ruling NLD party. The military took power the day the new Parliament, elected in flawed but legitimate elections on November 8, 2020, was scheduled to convene. The military leadership, falsely claiming widespread voter fraud during the elections, immediately declared a military caretaker government and state of emergency. The military regime alleged the coup was legal under the 2008 constitution.
Demonstrations and general strikes followed. In response, the regime launched a brutal crackdown against the people of Burma, led by many of the same individuals largely responsible for previous abuses, including atrocities against Rohingya. The military has killed peaceful protesters, they have arrested and detained thousands, and there are disturbing reports of security forces using torture and sexual violence against those in detention. The military has also moved to clamp down on fundamental freedoms and access to information, blocking access to social media sites, including Facebook, which is widely used in the country, and intermittently restricting access to the Internet in an attempt to stop popular protests and prevent reporting on human rights abuses.
The military has levied spurious charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, ostensibly to disqualify her from future office, and has detained multiple high-level advisors within the former NLD government in an apparent pressure campaign to discredit Aung San Suu Kyi and her party. In the face of brutal and lethal force used by the regime, the people of Burma have continued to make their voices heard and have disrupted the military’s ability to govern through a nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). Although some business activity has since resumed, the coup has set off a banking and liquidity crisis that represents a significant threat to the broader economy. The United States has led the international effort to press the military regime to reverse course, refrain from further violence, restore the country’s path to democracy, release all those unjustly detained, and hold those responsible for the coup and violence against the people to account.
On March 12, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was designating Burma for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months on the basis of conditions in Burma caused by the coup. TPS enables Burmese nationals (and individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Burma) currently residing in the United States to file initial applications through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for protected status if they meet eligibility requirements.
The military government changed the country’s name to “Myanmar” in 1989. The United States government continues to use the name “Burma.”
U.S. Assistance to Burma
The United States has a long-standing commitment to improving the lives of the people of Burma. After the USAID Mission closed in 1989, the United States continued to deliver emergency humanitarian assistance along the Thailand-Burma border, including through the Department of State (DOS)/Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration’s (PRM) funding to non-governmental organization (NGO) partners for assistance to Burmese refugees and asylum seekers in the refugee camps on the Thailand side of the border. The United States resumed targeted health programs in 1998 and scaled up assistance efforts in response to the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. The United States re-established a full USAID Mission in 2012.
As outlined by the White House on February 11, 2021, following the military coup, the United States is continuing support for the people of Burma, which includes humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable populations. An interagency committee was established to review assistance and engagements toward Burma to ensure no U.S. government funds support the regime.
USAID redirected $42.4 million of FY 2020 bilateral assistance away from work that benefits the government of Burma. USAID is also continuing its support to the people of Burma with approximately $69 million in FY 2020 bilateral programs that provide direct benefits to sustain and improve the health of the people of Burma, including efforts to maintain democratic space, foster food security, support independent media, and promote peace and reconciliation in regions affected by violence. State/PRM is also providing $47.5 million in FY 2020 and FY 2021 in humanitarian assistance to Burma, meeting life-saving needs for populations affected by violence. USAID and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are engaging civil society and multilateral stakeholders to revitalize the COVID-19 response, including vaccine deployment.
Prior to the military coup, the United States helped advance human rights across the country through advocacy with key decision-makers, while also assisting communities and civil society to mitigate conflict, support formal and informal peace processes, support domestic-led justice initiatives and documentation of human rights abuses, and improve local governance. USAID provided support for the country’s electoral commission to carry out national and regional elections in 2020 and technical assistance to political parties and civil society. DOS and USAID supported programs that promoted democratic transparency and accountability through support to Burmese civil society and independent media. USAID promoted democratic transparency and accountability through support to Burma’s civil society and independent media. Between 2017 and 2020, USAID funded 1,500 training activities and events to build support for peace and reconciliation and trained 258 local organizations to improve conflict resolution skills. Still, development challenges that stem from the legacy of authoritarian government, limited judicial independence and repression of basic freedoms pose challenges. To help empower civil society and restore basic freedoms, USAID has trained 255 independent media outlets on unbiased reporting, strengthened the capacity of 235 civil society organizations to advocate for democratic reforms.
The United States has also supported efforts to promote justice and accountability for atrocities and other abuses committed in Burma. DOS conducted a robust survey among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh documenting atrocities and abuses committed in Rakhine State, which led to a public report, as well as funds Burmese civil society initiatives engaged in promoting justice for people across Burma. The United States has also supported the work of the UN Fact Finding Mission for Myanmar, its successor the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, and the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar.
Since the August 2017 outbreak of violence in Rakhine State, the United States has provided more than $1.3 billion to address the humanitarian plight of Rohingya in Bangladesh and for the remaining population within Burma, while continuing to assist other vulnerable populations, including members of ethnic and religious minority groups, in Kachin, Shan, and elsewhere in the region.
U.S. economic assistance focused on deepening and sustaining key political and economic reforms, ensuring that the democratic transition benefits everyday people, and mitigates division and conflict. Since 2012, the United States has provided nearly $1.5 billion to support Burma’s democratic transition and economic transformation, advance the peace process, and improve the lives of millions, including by assisting communities affected by violence and through combatting hate speech and communal violence.
DOS/Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) programming, through partnerships with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) program, provided capacity building training for police, prosecutors, and judicial actors, focused on shared U.S.-Burma priorities, including on law enforcement professionalization, corruption, trafficking in persons, counter-narcotics, and support for justice sector reform efforts. Burma is a major producer of narcotics, and the United States has provided assistance in addressing the social problems associated with addiction, while the DEA assisted the police in disrupting production and distribution. In the wake of the coup and violence against civilians, INL has suspended all assistance activities with law enforcement entities. INL priorities for assistance include enabling a return to a democratic trajectory and development of the rule of law, support for defense lawyers and legal education, efforts to build accountability for corruption and other abuses of power, including use of excessive force against civilians, and drug demand reduction.
U.S. assistance has helped to improve food security for more than 1.3 million people and increased agricultural productivity for more than 400,000 impoverished farming families with better access to technology, markets, and new investments. New entrepreneurs have benefited from the economic reform process, which has increased access to information and communications technology. U.S. government investments focus on improving health for vulnerable and underserved groups – helping to mitigate causes of fragility arising from deep and longstanding inequities in health access – and addressing health threats such as multi-drug resistant malaria and tuberculosis, and a growing HIV epidemic among people who inject drugs. USAID worked through communities, civil society, and village leaders to ensure that delivery of local health and education services are responsive and accountable to local needs and priorities, and that services are delivered equitably, reducing inter-ethnic tensions in areas prone to fighting. With support from the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), Burma has achieved an 84 percent decline in malaria burden in the last six years. Before the military coup, Burma was the only Asian country on track to achieve the 2020 End Tuberculosis milestones. USAID was the first international partner in contributing to Burma’s COVID-19 response, and the United States has been the largest bilateral donor for health interventions.
Prior to the military coup, U.S. agencies providing assistance and training in Burma included the U.S. Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Labor, Health and Human Services, Justice, Defense, and Treasury, the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Peace Corps, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bilateral Economic Relations
As Burma transitioned toward democracy, the United States took concrete steps to accelerate broad-based economic growth and support the political reform process. The United States played an instrumental role in supporting renewed engagement from multilateral development banks, which re-started operations in 2013. In 2016, the United States terminated the national emergency with respect to Burma, which had been in place since 1997, and rescinded a number of economic sanctions and other restrictions on Burma, including the designations of individuals and entities under Burma-related sanctions authorities. Following the February 1 military coup d’état, the United States has led an international effort to use sanctions, diplomatic engagement, and other tools to pressure the military regime to return Burma to the path to democracy. On February 10, President Biden issued Executive Order 14014, setting a framework for U.S. sanctions in response to the coup. U.S. sanctions have been targeted, focused on promoting accountability for the military leaders responsible for the coup and the violence against the people of Burma, as well as others who support or profit from the military regime. The overriding goal of the sanctions campaign has been to impose costs on the military regime and promote accountability for the coup and human rights abuses, while avoiding economic harm to the people of Burma. In addition, the United States has galvanized an international coalition of partners who have similarly condemned the military coup and taken coordinated action.
Burma’s Membership in International Organizations
Burma became a member of the United Nations in 1948 following independence from the United Kingdom, and a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1997. Burma was the chair of ASEAN for 2014, its first chairmanship in 17 years as an ASEAN member state. 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.
Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
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:
CIA World Factbook Burma Page
USAID Burma Page
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page