US extends targeted sanctions against Myanmar

The Obama administration has extended targeted sanctions already in place in Myanmar for another year, in an effort to maintain pressure on the country’s officials to advance political reforms.

Concern over the failure of Myanmar officials to prevent violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state and central Myanmar, as well as reports of military abuses, prompted the US government to extend sanctions, the Associated Press reported.

A State Department official said the continued sanctions allow the US to "maintain the flexibility necessary to target specific bad actors and prevent backsliding on reform,” according to BBC News.

Following the release of hundreds of political prisoners, including democracy crusader Aung San Suu Kyi, the US resumed diplomatic relations with Myanmar and suspended most trade and investment sanctions last year.

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The targeted sanctions that remain prevent Americans from doing business with companies or individuals who "slow or thwart reform in Burma, commit serious human rights abuses or propagate military trade with North Korea,” the State Department official said, according to the BBC.

But there’s some good news for Myanmar officials, too. To recognize political reforms that have been achieved, the US announced it had eased some visa restrictions imposed against Myanmar's former military regime.

Congressional staffers and a State Department official told the AP that the Obama administration is working on arranging a visit by Myanmar’s President Thein Sein to the White House this month. If that happens, he’d be the first Burmese leader to visit since 1966.