“Hotel owned by blacklisted businessman was only option, embassy says”

The Myanmar Times on August 14, 2014 released the following:

“By Tim McLaughlin

The United States Embassy in Yangon said that it failed to recognise early enough that a hotel it was assigned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was owned and constructed by a blacklisted businessman, leaving no option but to use the venue to host Secretary of State John Kerry last weekend.

The Myanmar Times reported on August 10 that Mr Kerry stayed at the Lake Garden Hotel Nay Pyi Taw owned by sanctioned tycoon U Zaw Zaw and constructed by U Zaw Zaw’s company Max Myanmar, which also appears on the US sanctions list.

The spokesperson said that the US delegation was assigned the hotel by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and asked for the hotel to be changed when they became aware of the issue, but other accommodation could not be arranged.

“We recognised late the owner of the hotel assigned to us was on the list, but less problematic alternative hotels that also met our safety and security standards were not available,” the spokesperson told The Myanmar Times on August 13.

Mr Kerry, who was in Myanmar to for a round of ASEAN meetings, did not violate any US sanctions with his stay. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which details regulations for dealing with SDN Listed individuals and entities includes, “an exemption for activities related to travel, including hotel accommodations. This applies to the U.S. delegation’s use of the Lake Garden Hotel,” the spokesperson said.

During his visit, Mr Kerry touted the significance of what remains of his country’s sanctions regime against Myanmar on August 10, describing it as a sign that Washington is keen to avoid rushing its engagement with Nay Pyi Taw.

“Sanctions now are very much focused on members of the junta and on key individuals who may still be representing a challenge to achieving some of these [Myanmar’s] goals,” he told members of the media while speaking at the Lake Garden.

Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson at the State Department, was insistent that hotel stay did not send mixed messages about US sanctions against Myanmar when questioned by reporters in Washington.

The US has eased most of its sanctions against Myanmar in response to reforms undertaken by President U Thein Sein, but still maintains targeted sanctions against some individuals and companies as piece of its “calibrated” reengagement that has hinged in part on a commitment to responsible investment in Myanmar.

Most companies and persons that appear on the SDN list are alleged to have profited from close relationships with the previous military junta. Entities and individuals that are SDN listed are barred from engaging in business with US companies and their assets are frozen in the US. A number of Myanmar’s largest and best-known firms are on the list.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, met with individuals who are on the SDN list during his visit to Myanmar in June. He said that many appeared “very eager” to take steps to have themselves and their companies removed from the list.

Mr Malinowski, who did not reveal which SDN-listed individuals he met during his trip, said the legal process for getting removed from the list includes demonstrating responsible business practices and showing that an individual or entity has cut ties with the military

The Lake Garden property where Mr Kerry and his delegation stayed is managed by French hotel chain Accor under its MGallery brand. Both U Zaw Zaw and his Max Myanmg group of companies were added to the Special Designated Nationals (SDN) list in 2009, according to the Treasury Department’s website.

Max Myanmar and Accor signed a contract to develop three properties in Myanmar, including the Lake Garden, in 2013. Two other properties connected to U Zaw Zaw – the Max Hotel at Chaungtha Beach and the Royal Kumudra Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw – are on the SDN list.

According to the Lake Garden website, the luxury property has 165 rooms and suites and boasts a cigar lounge and wine cellar. Rooms were advertised as starting at US$115 a night. It was unclear how many rooms the American delegation was occupying. Other US officials in Nay Pyi Taw for the regional meeting stayed at a separate hotel.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


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