Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Fact Sheet
September 3, 2014

More information about Burma is available on the Burma Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


The United States supports a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Burma that respects the human rights of all its peoples. Elections in November 2010 led to a peaceful transition from sixty years of military rule to a quasi-civilian government headed by President Thein Sein. Under President Thein Sein, the Government of Burma has initiated a series of political and economic reforms which have resulted in a substantial opening of the long-isolated country. These reforms include the release of many political prisoners, ceasefire agreements with 12 of 13 major non-state armed groups, greater freedom of the press, and parliamentary by-elections in 2012 in which pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition party won 43 of the 44 seats they contested (out of 45) gaining approximately 11 percent representation in parliament.

The Obama Administration has employed a calibrated engagement strategy to recognize the positive steps undertaken to date and to incentivize further reform. The guiding principles of this approach have been to support Burma’s political and economic reforms; promote national reconciliation; build government transparency, and accountability and institutions; empower local communities and civil society; and promote responsible international engagement and human rights.

As part of our calibrated approach to support further reform, the United States has restored full diplomatic relations, re-established a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in country, supported assessment missions and technical assistance by international financial institutions, and eased financial and investment sanctions against Burma. President Obama’s trip to Burma in November 2012, the first visit of a sitting U.S. President, demonstrated the United States’ continuing support to Burma in its political and economic reform efforts.

During the President’s visit, the Burmese government made 11 specific commitments to strengthen human rights protections, including provisions related to religious freedom, political prisoners, ethnic reconciliation, non-proliferation, good governance, and human trafficking. These commitments include forming a committee to review political prisoner cases; pursuing political dialogue with ethnic minorities; meeting humanitarian needs in Rakhine State and other conflict affected areas; providing for the establishment of a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Burma; and allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross to resume prison visits. In a May 2013 visit to the United States, President Thein Sein and his senior ministers reaffirmed their intention to uphold these commitments, though as of August 2014, many of them remain only partially fulfilled.

While the country has made notable progress, challenges remain, particularly in resolving tensions and preventing violence towards the ethnic Rohingya population and other populations at risk in Rakhine State. Additionally, more progress needs to be made to define a clear role for the military, move from ceasefires to political dialogue, and to improve rule of law and government accountability. The United States continues to emphasize to the Burmese government the importance of promoting values of tolerance, diversity, and peaceful co-existence, and for the Burmese military to completely end military ties with North Korea.

In August 2014, Secretary of State Kerry attended the U.S.-ASEAN Ministers’ Meeting and other regional fora in Napyitaw, Burma. Secretary Kerry met with President Thein Sein, Parliamentary lower house speaker Shwe Mann, and National League for Democracy Chair Aung San Suu Kyi. In each of these meetings, the Secretary reiterated the United States’ commitment to stand with the people of Burma during the long road of reform to help the country realize its full potential as a peaceful, just, prosperous and democratic society. Secretary Kerry raised concerns about the need to address human rights issues, which pose serious challenges to Burma’s reform process. The Burmese leadership acknowledged the work that lies ahead and affirmed its commitment to work with the United States and international community to continue on the path of democratic reform.

The Administration regularly consults with the U.S. Congress as well as U.S. allies and other international actors in appropriate ways to encourage continued reform in the country.

The military government changed the country name to "Myanmar" in 1989. It remains U.S. policy to refer to the country as Burma in most contexts.

U.S. Assistance to Burma

The United States has a long-standing commitment to improving the lives of the people of Burma. After the Mission was closed in 1989, USAID continued to deliver emergency humanitarian assistance along the Thai-Burma border and resumed targeted health programs in 1998. In 2008, USAID scaled up efforts in response to the devastation of Cyclone Nargis. Burma's ongoing reforms led to the re-establishment of the USAID Mission in 2012, at which time President Obama pledged $170 million of assistance over two years to focus on new and expanded collaboration in the following priority areas: democracy, human rights, and rule of law; transparent governance; peace and reconciliation; health; economic opportunity; and rural economic development. U.S. assistance has exceeded this pledge, totaling more than $200 million.

Aligned with diplomatic efforts, development assistance leverages the unique resources of the United States, building public-private partnerships with U.S. businesses, linking U.S. universities and research centers to development projects, engaging civil society and the Burmese diaspora, and encouraging the Burmese private sector to invest in its own transition and growth. The U.S. Embassy has launched over 20 public-private partnerships with U.S. and Burmese institutions of higher education, businesses and private foundations, including Microsoft, Cisco, Gap Inc., Hewlett Packard, Johnson and Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, Johns Hopkins University, and many more. These partnerships bring new technologies to Burma in order to support small and medium enterprise development; train public, private and civil society leaders in information and communication technology (ICT) skills; improve maternal, newborn, and child healthcare delivery; promote better hygiene; and provide over 200 million liters of clean drinking water to those in need.

In addition to the USAID Mission in Burma, many other U.S. agencies provide assistance in Burma, including the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Bilateral Economic Relations

In recognition of Burma's political and economic reform progress, the United States has taken concrete steps to accelerate broad-based economic growth and support the political reform process. In July 2012, the Administration issued a general license to authorize the exportation of U.S. financial services to Burma, permitting the first new U.S. investment in Burma in nearly 15 years. In September 2012, the Administration removed President Thein Sein and Speaker Shwe Mann from the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. In September and October 2012, the Administration eased the ban on the export of financial services to Burma to allow assistance and support by the U.S. government and international financial institutions (IFIs). In November 2012, the Administration issued a general license to authorize the importation of Burmese-origin goods into the United States, with the exception of jadeite and rubies mined or extracted from Burma, for the first time in almost a decade. The July 28, 2013 expiration of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act’s (BFDA) ban on imports from Burma formalized this treatment. In 2013, the Administration issued a general license to authorize U.S. persons to conduct most transactions – including opening and maintaining financial accounts and conducting a range of other financial services – with four of Burma’s major financial institutions: Asia Green Development Bank, Ayeyarwady Bank, Myanmar Economic Bank, and Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank.

The U.S. government encourages responsible investment in Burma as part of an overall strategy to support development and improve the standard of living for the Burmese people. Consequently, U.S. companies play a critical role in supporting broad-based, sustainable development in Burma and, therefore, are helping the country progress toward a more open, inclusive, and democratic society. Burma's Membership in International Organizations

Burma became a member of the United Nations in 1948 following independence from the United Kingdom, and a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1997. Burma is chair of ASEAN for 2014, its first chairmanship in 17 years as an ASEAN member state.

Burma and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the UN, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to Burma is Derek J. Mitchell; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List. Judith Cefkin is currently the Senior Advisor for Burma.

Burma maintains an embassy in the United States at 2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: (202) 332-3344; fax: (202) 332-4351.

More information about Burma is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Burma Country Page
Doing Business in Burma page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Burma Page
USAID Burma Page
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page

[This is a mobile copy of Burma]

Short URL: http://m.state.gov/md35910.htm