US further eases restrictions on Myanmar banks

Featured South East Asia World - February 26th, 2013

The US gave the green light to four of Myanmar’s biggest banks – including two banks owned by tycoons associated with the country’s former military regime – in the latest rewards following rapid political transformation in the Southeast Asian nation.

The US Treasury Department said last week that it had issued a “general license” to Myanma Economic Bank and Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank. Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwady Bank, owned by notorious cronies Tay Za and Zaw Zaw respectively, were also given the OK to trade.

The general license allows individuals, companies and financial institutions to open and maintain accounts and access to a range of financial services.

It is also expected to increase the domestic reach of US credit card firms Visa and MasterCard, according to Reuters.

The move has further eased restrictions on US economic activity in Myanmar and has helped remove uncertainty of US firms and individuals to conduct transactions with the banks.

In its statement, the Treasury said the green light signifies “greater access to some of the largest Burmese banks and allow these financial entities to access the US financial system” and would promote “responsible US investment in Myanmar.”

All four banks remain on the US’ “specially designated nationals” list, meaning US firms are still prohibited from investing or entering joint ventures with them, reports the Financial Times.