Thursday, 3 July 2014

US official meets with Myanmar blacklisted businesses

Tom Malinowski, the US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, is in Myanmar meeting with businesspeople who remain on a US blacklist.

Mr. Malinowski, a former Washington director of Human Rights Watch who was confirmed by the Senate in April, is traveling through Myanmar for a week with a team of state, treasury and defense department officials – and they’ve put out the word that anyone on the US treasury blacklist is welcome to come for a meeting.

The “specially designated nationals” list, or SDN, includes many companies and individuals deemed to have close ties to the former military junta or the drug trade. The list determines which local companies American firms cannot do business with – a key factor when an American firm, or one using American financing, needs to form a joint venture with a local company, or find a supply chain partner on the ground.

Malinowski’s visit comes as US-based businesses push the Barack Obama administration to overhaul and ultimately whittle down the list, even as human rights groups warn against squandering US leverage with Myanmar.

“The delegation will meet with several members of the Burmese business community on the Specially Designated Nationals list, to explain US sanctions policy and the premium the United States puts on accountability, transparency and corporate social responsibility,” a State Department spokesman told Monitor Global Outlook.

Among the more famous Myanmar businesses and individuals on the treasury list are Tay Za, the chairman of Htoo Group of Companies and one of the country’s richest men with interests in jade, timber, hotels, and the airline industry; and Steven Law (also known as Tun Myint Naing), owner of the conglomerate Asia World.

Businesses have criticized the SDN process for lacking firm criteria for inclusion or removal. Mr. Law’s father, Lo Hsing Han, a notorious drug lord, remains on the list even though he died nearly a year ago.

Also on the list is the president of Myanmar’s Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Win Aung, making for some awkward encounters during visits from US delegations.

But with many US lawmakers and policymakers wary of fully embracing the reformist Myanmar government, and with human rights groups keeping up the pressure, supporters see the list as a crucial source of American leverage on Myanmar.

“We encourage all economic actors in Burma to conduct their business operations transparently and responsibly by consulting with local communities, mitigating negative environmental consequences, maintaining good labor rights, and human rights practices, and acquiring land fairly,” the State Department spokesman said.

Malinowski will also be talking to Myanmar officials about peace process efforts, human rights, and military reform.

source: Monitor Global Outlook
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...