Updated: Fri, 22 Feb 2013 19:15:54 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

US allows business with four Myanmar banks

The United States authorized US entities to do business with four major Myanmar banks Friday, extending the easing of economic sanctions on the former pariah state.


The Treasury Department said it had issued a general license to allow individuals, companies, and financial institutions to conduct most financial transactions -- such as opening and maintaining an account and a range of other financial services -- with the banks.

The banks named were Myanma Economic Bank, Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, Asia Green Development Bank, and Ayeyarwady Bank.

"This action will give US companies and non-governmental organizations greater access to some of the largest Burmese banks and allow these financial entities to access the US financial system," the department said in a statement, referring to Myanmar as Burma, the country's former name.

The new banking permission supports the July 2012 easing of US economic sanctions on Myanmar that allows new investment and encourages additional US economic involvement.

David Cohen, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, expressed hope the action will aid the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

Increased financial access "will help to facilitate Burma's continued social and economic development, serve as a model for responsible investment, and help to provide a better future for the Burmese people," Cohen said.

Relations between the two countries have undergone a sea change since Myanmar's ruling military ceded power in 2011, ending decades of dictatorship.

President Thein Sein launched a series of reforms after taking office in 2011, including freeing political prisoners, loosening censorship and allowing pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to enter parliament.

As part of the raft of reforms, Myanmar is seeking an overhaul of its battered and mistrusted banking system, a move that analysts say could pave the way for foreign lenders to open branches.

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