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World Bank To Open First Burma Office As U.S. Continues Sanctions


The World Bank announced Thursday it would open its first office in Burma this June. The Bank, which previously suspended programs in the late 1980s, has never had an office in-country. Once established, the office will look at again restarting aid programs.

"In early June, we will be opening an office in Myanmar, which will be led by a new country manager," World Bank Vice President for East Asia Pamela Cox said in a written statement Thursday, "Also in June, I'll be traveling to Myanmar to gain a firsthand assessment of the situation."

Programs in Burma, also known as Myanmar, have not yet restarted. This step requires an economic assessment of Burma's arrears and reengagement with the newly elected government and civil society. When asked about a possible timeline or deadline on the assessment, Washington Communications Manager Carl Hanlon told RTTNews "there's no timeframe on it at this point."

"We recognize that reforms are fragile and we are well aware of the risks. The speed of our engagement in Myanmar will depend on whether reforms can be sustained," Cox concluded her statement, alluding to recent electoral reforms and the release of hundreds of political prisoners.

During the most recent elections, former candidate and political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi ran for and was elected to a seat in parliament. This sign was see as the most recent signal that Burma's reform efforts are in earnest.

The United States, UK and other western countries have also recently reengaged with Burma, sending top officials in recent months. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron became the first Western head of state to visit the country since a military coup in 1962. The U.K. announced Thursday it would cease discouraging trade with Burma. Japan has waived previous debt and Canada has eased sanctions.

The U.S., however, has not yet taken the steps to begin easing sanctions. "We continue to emphasize that much work remains to be done in Burma and that easing sanctions will remain a step-by-step process," Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday.

"We have pursued a carefully calibrated posture, retaining as much flexibility as possible should reforms slow or reverse, while pressing the Burmese government for further progress in key areas."

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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