Wednesday, April 18, 2012

US Allows Non-Profit Activities in Myanmar

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which administers the Burma sanctions on financial transactions, issued a partial relaxation of those sanctions yesterday.   The relevant text from OFAC"s general license regarding the approved activities is reproduced below:

(1) Projects to meet basic human needs in Burma, including, but not limited to, disaster relief; assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict victims; the distribution of food, clothing, medicine, and medical equipment intended to be used to relieve human suffering; the provision of health-related services; and the provision of shelter, and clean water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance; 
(2) Democracy building and good governance in Burma, including, but not limited to, rule of law, citizen participation, govemment accountability, conflict resolution, public policy advice, and civil society development projects; 
(3) Educational activities in Burma, including, but not limited to, combating illiteracy; increasing access to education at the elementary, high school, vocational, technical, college, or university level; foreign language instruction; and assisting education reform projects at all levels; 
(4) Sporting activities in Burma, including, but not limited to, amateur sporting events, activities promoting physical health and exercise, and the construction and maintenance of sports facilities open to the Burmese public; 
(5) Non-commercial development projects directly benefiting the Burmese people, including, but not limited to, preventing infectious disease; promoting maternal/child health, animal husbandry, food security, and sustainable agriculture; conservation of endangered species of fauna and flora and their supporting natural habitats; and the construction and maintenance of schools, libraries, medical clinics, hospitals, and other infrastructure necessary to support the aforementioned non-commercial development projects; and 
(6) Religious activities, including, but not limited to, religious education and training, including the training of missionaries; the establishment and maintenance of congregations; and the construction and improvement of houses of worship, schools, seminaries, and orphanages. 

Notably, OFAC still maintains the general prohibition on financial transactions related to commercial investment activities in Myanmar.  For example, the restrictions on the use of credit cards, a major practical difficulty to traveling to Myanmar, still stands.   

However, I believe that this relaxation could allow not-for-profits which promote "good governance" issues such as corporate social responsibility, rule of law, government accountability, etc., to go into Myanmar.  This could include the American Bar Association or the American Chamber of Commerce.  We can expect American entities to start following their EU and Australian counterparts on the plane to Yangon soon.