US removes prominent Myanmar businessman Win Aung from sanctions list

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States removed a prominent businessman from its Myanmar sanctions list on Thursday, in spite of doubts about reforms in the South-east Asian country.

Win Aung, the head of Myanmar's chamber of commerce whose Dagon International construction firm won contracts to help build the country's nine-year-old capital of Naypyitaw, was removed from the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list, the US State Department said in a statement.

Two of Win Aung's businesses were also removed from the US Treasury Department list, the statement said, adding that decisions to remove individuals were based on actions taken by the sanctioned people or enterprises.

The statement provided no details on why Win Aung was removed from the list, or why he had been put on it.

According to confidential US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks, Win Aung allegedly exported timber to China from protected areas after winning contracts because of his military ties.

Myanmar launched widespread economic and political reforms in 2011, convincing the United States and other Western countries - keen to develop ties with the fast developing and strategically located country - to suspend most sanctions imposed during decades of military rule.

However, many in Myanmar now feel the reform process has stalled, with the military still holding extensive power.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told Reuters last month that President Thein Sein was insincere about reform and accused the United States and the West of being too optimistic about change.

The State Department said the US sanctions architecture remained in place, and said any changes would depend on the government continuing with political and economic reforms and resolving disputes with members of ethnic groups.

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