Obama ends Myanmar state of emergency

WASHINGTON — President Obama ended the 19-year state of emergency against Myanmar on Friday, saying that the nation's elections in November 2015 have led to greater freedom of expression and democracy.

The negative conditions in Myanmar, Obama said in his order, have been "significantly altered by Burma's substantial advances to promote democracy,including historic elections in November 2015 that resulted in the former opposition party, the National League for Democracy, winning a majority of seats in the national parliament."

Myanmar, also known as Burma, was first hit with a declaration of emergency on May 20, 1997, by the Clinton administration. President George W. Bush followed with another executive order tightening the sanctions in 2007.

The end of sanctions against Myanmar has been years in the making. In 2012, Obama visited Myanmar, where he met with longtime democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now the nation's state counselor.

Last month during a visit by Suu Kyi, Obama ended 27 years of punitive tariffs on Myanmar and restored it to a list of countries receiving special trade status.

The Myanmar government declared martial law in 1989. Suu Kyi won a national election the next year, but the military junta refused to cede power and kept her under house arrest for 15 of the next 21 years. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. After her party won a national election last year, she became state counselor, a role similar to prime minister.

The elimination of national states of emergency is rare, even if the conditions that led to the declaration have subsided or disappeared completely.

There are now 31 states of national emergency pending in the United States, with the oldest being a 1979 emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter to impose sanctions during the Iran hostage crisis. Most are used to impose economic sanctions — mostly as a formality, because Congress requires it under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

Last month, Obama renewed the state of emergency that followed the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks for the 16th year, saying "the terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues."

Contributing: Gregory Korte


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