An Eye on Asia: Sanctions updates for Burma and Thailand

Thailand

While the U.S. has no formal Thai sanctions program (and we love their food and beautiful vacation spots), U.S. businesses may want to take a few extra precautions when dealing with the Thai government these days.  Nalinee Taveesin, formerly Thailand’s trade representative and currently a “Cabinet Member in Thailand’s Prime Minister’s office” is now one of The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN).   For those of you that are unfamiliar with blocked parties, OFAC’s SDN list is a list of parties (governments, individuals, businesses, and entities) whose assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from doing business with such listed parties.  Ms. Taveesin was added to the SDN list under the Zimbabwe sanctions for an alleged connection to Robert Mugabe.

For U.S. businesses the real questions are:

What does this mean for U.S. persons?

How does OFAC treat such a listing of a private individual who holds a public office?

Does this mean you can’t do business with her in her official capacity?

According to OFAC as of today, such a listing doesn’t prohibit U.S. persons from dealing with the Thai government.  However, what is clear is that U.S. individuals and businesses should be aware of Ms. Taveesin’s listing and consult OFAC before considering any transactions that might involve or be connected to her. As always, OFAC must evaluate the particular extent of contact with the named SDN in your transaction/business dealings.  A phone conversation is not prohibited but financial dealings would be a no-no.

Burma

In other news, the U.S.’s relationship with Burma (also known as Myanmar), whose U.S. sanctions include a prohibition on import of Burmese products, export and reexport of financial services, and  new investment in Burma,  seems to be moving in a positive direction.  Political reforms in Burma, including the first elections in 20 years and the release of political prisoners, seem to be making real headway in Burmese/U.S. relations.  Hillary Clinton’s December 2011 visit marked the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to Burma in over fifty years.  On January 16th and 22nd respectively Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator John McCain (this was his second visit within a year) also visited the country.   This month the U.S. also announced that it will once again be exchanging ambassadors with Burma for the first time in two decades.

While none of these actions ensures a change or scaling back of sanctions against Burma, the U.S. seems to be considering its next moves.  Some Congressmen have been speaking positively on the issue but no one seems to have a decisive plan just yet.  While the U.S. watches and waits to see if Burmese progress continues, the bottom line is this: keep an eye on Burma – we could be seeing big changes soon.