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US drops sanctions on Dagon Win Aung

File photo of US President Barack Obama (Photo: WikiCommons)

The United States has lifted its sanctions against a Burmese businessman and chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).

Win Aung was placed on the US Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list, which forbids American companies and individuals from all economic engagement with the named person, or company.

Win Aung, known as “Dagon” Win Aung for his role as the chief of the Dagon Group conglomerate, faced accusations of corruption as head of the Burma’s primary business body UMFCCI when his Dagon International construction firm was awarded large contracts, including the building of Burma’s new capital, Naypyidaw, and reconstruction along the Irrawaddy Delta following the disastrous 2008 Cyclone Nargis.

Win Aung established Dagon International in the 1990s in partnership with Win Thein, a captain in the Burmese army. Dagon International and sister company Dagon Timber have also been removed from the sanctions list.

US sanctions against Burma began in 1997, in response to the repression of the country’s democratic opposition by the ruling military junta.

In 2012, the US eased its economic and investment sanctions against Burma in line with its rapprochement, which allowed the flowing of investment into Burma’s industrial sectors. However, certain individuals and companies, particularly those with ties to the military, were not affected by the relaxing of restrictions.

“Easing sanctions is a strong signal of the United States’ support for reform, and will provide immediate incentives for reformers and significant benefits to the people of Burma,” says the the US embassy in Rangoon on its website.

However, “those individuals who continue to engage in abusive, corrupt, or destabilising behaviour going forward will not reap the rewards of reform,” it adds.

Individuals on the SDN list can seek to be delisted by contacting the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which says it “investigates and assesses such requests on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the facts and circumstances specific to each individual or entity, as reflected in the evidence presented and other information available to OFAC.”