Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Divergent views on extension of U.S. sanctions

by Nem Davies

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Divergent views have emerged among Burmese analysts regarding the extension of U.S. sanctions against military-ruled Burma.

Some welcomed the extension of sanctions by the U.S. even as the U.S. and E.U. said they are reviewing their sanctions policies vis-à-vis Burma. However, those who welcomed the extension said that the U.S. should do it in a more effective way so as to maximize the impact on the junta. But others viewed the extension of sanctions as an unnecessary action.

"The sanctions should financially impact the top brass of the junta who are siphoning off public money into their pockets. Also, the sanctions should close the outflow of natural resources at any cost, as they are being misused to perpetuate the junta's power," said Dr. Maung Zarni, who once led the exile-based campaign group Free Burma Coalition.

Additionally, an economist based in Rangoon, speaking on condition of anonymity, welcomed the extension of sanctions by the U.S. and said they could to some extent impact the country's military leaders and their business ventures.

"The U.S. did what it thought should be done. They must do it. I think it is effective. It can create an impact on the top brass. That is why they [junta] frequently say not to impose sanctions on them," he reasoned.

"For instance, some business ventures cannot afford a power failure even for a minute. Computer related businesses cannot be conducted in Burma. Lack of regular power supply in Burma poses a lot of trouble and causes businesses to suffer a lot," explained the economist.

However, he cautioned that for sanctions to become really effective, the cooperation of neighboring countries such as Thailand, China and India is needed.

In response to the brutal crackdown on September 2007's Saffron Revolution which left at least 30 people dead, the U.S. enacted the Junta Anti-Democratic Effort (JADE) Act in July 2008.

The law bans the import of Burmese gems and natural gas to the U.S., coming into force on September 27, 2008.

Yet, despite a myriad of sanctions leveled against Burma by the U.S. and other countries, companies such as French owned TOTAL and U.S.-based Chevrolet are still operating business ventures in Burma.

TOTAL is drilling oil and gas in southern Burma earning the regime USD 200 to 450 million annually, according to Burma Campaign UK.

Since U.S. sanctions can achieve limited success as currently enforced, these companies which provide regular income to the junta should be completely withdrawn from Burma, Dr. Maung Zarni argued.

"Despite the withdrawal of other companies from Burma, why are they letting these two companies, TOTAL and Chevrolet, which are providing big revenue to the junta, continue their businesses in Burma," he asked.

On the other hand, some domestic organizations said that the withdrawal of investment by these companies would have little impact on the junta, instead affecting ordinary people by increasing unemployment. So, they argue, sanctions in general should be rolled back.

"I see sanctions as inhuman on humanitarian grounds. I don't like using sanctions as a tool for regime change. The promotion of constructive engagement is badly needed," Aung Khaing Win, a member of an anti-sanctions group said.

The decision of the U.S. to extend sanctions against Burma for another year cannot help the transition to democracy in Burma, Aye Lwin, a leader of the organization 88 Generation Student Group (Myanmar), said.

"It is just a show of standing behind Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD," he prospered.

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too