U Win Aung and his businesses removed from US sanctions list

25 April 2015
U Win Aung and his businesses removed from US sanctions list
Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce (UMFCCI) chairman Win Aung speaks at a press conference on the Foreign Investment Law. Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima 

The US Department of the Treasury has removed prominent Myanmar businessman U Win Aung, and two of his businesses from the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list (SDN List), according to the US State Department announcement on April 23. 
U Win Aung, the head of Myanmar's chamber of commerce whose Dagon International construction company won contracts to help build the country's nine-year-old capital of Nay Pyi Taw, has been removed from the list. 
The United States has made clear that Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) – designated under any US sanctions regime – can seek delisting, according to a press release from Marie Harf, office spokesperson.
“Our sanctions architecture for Burma remains in place. We have made clear to the Burmese Government that additional changes in U.S. sanctions policy are dependent on the government’s continuing its democratic and economic reforms and resolving disputes with members of ethnic groups. We will lift targeted sanctions based on actions by the SDNs and add individuals or entities to the SDN List as appropriate, for example, where there is evidence they have undermined the reform or peace processes, committed human rights abuses in Burma, or participated in military trade with North Korea,” the message reads.
“Removal from the SDN List is an administrative process overseen by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). SDNs seeking delisting may petition OFAC by submitting verifiable information demonstrating that changed circumstances warrant their removal, including that they have taken positive steps and changed behavior.”
The statement gave no explanation as to why U Win Aung was removed from the list at this point, or why he was on the list in the first place.
U Win Aung was described as a “regime crony” in a US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks. At that time, the US embassy suggested he be added to the list because he “not only financially supports the Than Shwe regime, but also uses his contacts with the senior generals to amass and maintain his fortune.” He was also alleged to have permission from the generals to log in protected forests, bringing in a multi-million dollar annual income.
Observers have indicated that it has been embarrassing for the Myanmar authorities to have the chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry on the troublesome US watch list.