The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), acting under the United States Department of the Treasury, is charged with the task of codifying and enforcing economic sanctions programs enacted by Executive Order of the President of the United States or by specific legislation.

Sanctions programs against specific nations or foreign regimes are often sweeping, including complete trade embargoes and prohibition of virtually every type of transaction. Some sanctions programs are more limited in scope, blocking only specified transactions or types of trade.

In conducting business or financial transactions with a sanctioned, blocked, or targeted country, it is important to be aware of the fluid nature of any sanctions programs. Sanctions are frequently issued, lifted, and reissued in response to changes in a country’s leadership, efforts or lack thereof to comply with international obligations, and other actions or inactions that could have an effect on United States foreign policy, economic policy, or national security.

One example of the ever-changing nature of OFAC sanctions is Burma. Also known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, or simply Myanmar, Burma became an independent nation in the 1940’s, but quickly fell under a military dictatorship as the result of a coup in 1962. Since that time, numerous nations around the globe have imposed Burmese sanctions as a result of human rights violations in that country:

  • Use of child soldiers in both the Burmese Army and in rebel uprisings
  • Use of sexual violence against women by the nation’s military
  • Child labor, forced labor, and slavery
  • Human trafficking
  • Genocide and human rights abuses, particularly against the Rohingya people

The United States was among the nations imposing economic sanctions against Burma (Myanmar), beginning with an arms embargo in 1993. Subsequently, the sanctions program was broadened.

In 2003, all imports from Burma were banned, with the exception of several limited goods or items, under the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act.

Later, as a part of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act in 2008, OFAC imposed specific sanctions against the import of jadeite and rubies from Burma.

Following democratic reforms beginning in 2011, the United States eased OFAC sanctions against Burma.

Laws Regarding Burma Sanctions

The OFAC Burma Sanctions Program began in 1997, and the Burmese Sanctions Regulation in the Code of Federal Regulations in 31 C.F.R. Part 537.

OFAC’s Burma sanctions are authorized under several Executive Orders and legislative acts.  Some of these laws have been revoked, modified, and reissued in various forms:

  • EO 13651 – Prohibiting Certain Imports of Burmese Jadeite and Rubies
  • EO 13619Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability Of Burma
  • EO 13464 – Blocking Property And Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related To Burma
  • EO 13448 – Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Burma
  • EO 13310 – Blocking Property of the Government of Burma and Prohibiting Certain Transactions
  • EO 13047 – Prohibiting New Investment in Burma
  • Burma Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003
  • Tom Lantos Block Burmese Jade (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008

Prohibited Transactions

Under the Burmese Sanctions program, engaging in trade and financial transactions with individuals identified as government officials of Burma or their successors, anyone who has engaged in human rights abuses, anyone who engaged in facilitating public corruption, supporters of the Government of Burma, and spouses and dependent children of blocked persons.

Prohibited transactions include:

  • Direct or indirect exportation or re-exportation of financial services to persons listed on the SDN List;
  • Any non-exempt business or commercial transactions involving a person listed on the SDN List;
  • Attempting to evade OFAC sanctions or conspiring to violate the Burma Sanctions Regulations

There are exemptions to the Burma Sanctions Program.  For example, the import or export of informational materials, and personal communications with Burma are not prohibited. There are also specific transactions and actions that are permitted by General License.

OFAC Sanctions Lawyer

Understanding the Burma sanctions program and knowing what is permissible and what is prohibited can be difficult. However, if you conduct international business that involves Burma, or if you have friends or family members who reside in Burma, it is critical that you know what is expected of you under OFAC regulations.

Violating the OFAC sanctions program can have significant repercussions, ranging from blocked property and frozen assets to criminal conviction.

Get help with OFAC regulations, violation defense, and SDN removal by contacting an experienced OFAC attorney.