Burmese feed the seagulls at a jetty along the Yangon river ahead of the parliamentary elections on March 29, 2012, in Myanmar.
Credit: Paula Bronstein

The United States is to relax some financial sanctions against Myanmar in order to support humanitarian and development projects in the impoverished south-east Asian country.

The Treasury Department said Tuesday it will authorize financial transactions enabling private US-based organizations to undertake a range of not-for-profit projects and programs in Myanmar, as part of a reward for the country’s efforts to move forward with democratic reforms following decades of military rule.

Financial restrictions on sporting ties will also be lifted, as will “non-commercial development projects benefiting the Burmese people,” the BBC reports.

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The decision follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement on April 4 that Washington plans to relax sanctions banning senior Myanmar officials from travelling to the US and lift restrictions on the export of US financial services to the country.

Clinton also said that an ambassador to Myanmar would be named, while an office for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) would be set up and a UN Development Program operation established, Reuters reports.

US officials say further steps to lift sanctions could eventually lead to US investment in Myanmar’s banking, tourism, agriculture and telecommunications sectors.

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Tuesday’s decision is the latest step in a gradual easing of pressure from the Obama administration, the UK and other European countries on Myanmar following a dramatic series of reforms inside the country.

On April 1 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and prominent pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy party to a landslide victory in parliamentary by-elections.

On Monday Australia announced that it would relax financial and travel restrictions for more than 260 people in Myanmar, including President Thein Sein, while British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday that the UK was considering suspending sanctions and called on the EU to suspend its economic sanctions against the Myanmar government given the reforms underway there, Bloomberg reports.

According to the Associated Press, the EU will discuss suspending its economic sanctions next week. 

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