State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is vigorously defending Secretary of State John Kerry’s overnight stay in a Myanmar hotel owned by a blacklisted businessman, although she was short on specifics about it.
According to several media reports, Kerry and the U.S. delegation attending a regional summit of Southeast Asian nations stayed Saturday night in a hotel owned by Zaw Zaw, one of Myanmar’s most successful businessmen who has capitalized on the country’s old patronage networks.
While the U.S has lifted many sanctions on the former army-ruled country, it has continued to blacklist those like Zaw Zaw who maintain close relationships with leaders of Myanmar’s former military junta.
Peppered with questions about the stay during Tuesday’s briefing with reporters, Harf was quick to point out that hotels are excluded from the sanctions.
She did not know whether the U.S. or Myanmar government picked up the tab for the stay.
Whether Kerry stayed in a hotel owned by a blacklisted businessman “in no way changes” the U.S. continued support for sanctions against individuals and business owners in Myanmar accused of human rights abuses, Harf said.
“To suggest that it does is a little flip,” she said.