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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sanctions (on Myanmar, from Myanmar)

I have done some analysis of the paper on “Economic sanctions against Myanmar” issued by National League for Democracy on 8 February by writing the article titled “Sanctions, Daw Suu Kyi and NLD”.

It is found that there are different views on the sanctions against Myanmar imposed by western countries such as the US, the EU, Australia and New Zealand. Neighbouring ASEAN nations and legitimate political parties that competed in the elections have claimed that the sanctions imposed with the aim of seeing democratic
change should be lifted as Myanmar has put an end to the military rule and a new democratic government elected by the people in accord with the 2008 constitution has emerged. The interesting fact is that the political parties which demanded the lifting of sanctions are found to have no close contact with the large political party with the majority of Hluttaw seats or the government. Besides, it cannot be said that they and the government always have everything in common. Some of the parties are those of national races.

Those who have the stance on the lifting of the sanctions against Myanmar are not only the Myanmar government but also the regional neighbouring countries that know the Myanmar political situation very well and the people’s representatives representing the various regions and the various national races of Myanmar and various political views. Therefore, it is indeed a broad based stance. 

The US, the leading country of imposing sanctions against Myanmar, disclosed that it will maintain sanctions against Myanmar. To make matters worse, the NLD, which no longer has the right to operate legally,  supported the continued sanctions by issuing the said paper.

I am writing this article with a view to enabling the public to make a careful consideration and study regarding the argument as to whether the sanctions should remain or not.

Basic concept of sanctions 

Here, there is no point in arguing about whether sanctions are a good deed or not. Even a child understands that it is not a good habit to prevent a single person or persons from having their own honest way of earning a living. 

Nonetheless, a country imposes an economic sanction against another. Although economic sanction is used as a tool in military, economic and international relations fields, I will present the use of this tool only in the field of international relations or foreign affairs.

Economic sanction is deployed as an instrument of foreign policy. The use of instrument of foreign policy has been more common from the period of the Cold War in the aftermath of WWII. It is mostly used by the US. 

Generally, a powerful nation imposes economic sanctions against a small nation with the aim of ensuring that a certain policy of the latter falls into the hands of the former or causing a regime change in the target country after its government that is unfriendly with and opposed to and never looks up to that powerful nation has stepped down. 

In so doing, coercion is used. Frankly speaking, coercion means making the people of the target country poor and instigating public unrest and violence against the ruling government. It is the basic concept that the government of the target country may stand down or it may have to dance to the tune of the sanction imposer after being tired of the unrest and violence. In a way, it is the means of controlling and overthrowing the government only after getting the people into great trouble. In other words, it is a political blackmail like putting parents under duress after pointing the knife at the neck of their child. Sanction therefore is effective only if it can do harm to the people.

Although the basic concept is very clear, sanction-imposing countries have never uncovered the concept in public. Instead, they shout that their sanctions have no impact on the people of the target country and that there are very few people who are affected by the sanctions. When humanitarian activists strongly prove and claim that sanctions can adversely affect the innocent people and children (after the Iraq war), the imposers come to change their voice and say that their sanctions cash in on the target ones and that they try to do least harm to the innocent. As mentioned above, the basic concept of sanctions cannot be effective if the ordinary people are not affected. So, the target sanctions are like an iron bar covered with a silk cloth, designed to harm the people in a certain way. Analysts make a comment like this. To what extent can sanction do harm to Myanmar people? To what extent can it benefit the imposer?

Studying some questions in the first paragraph of the NLD’s paper, they can be divided into two categories – Can sanction affect the Myanmar people and can it help accomplish the aim of the imposer or be effective?

Regarding those two categories, the paper covers itself by saying that the sanctions do no harm or little harm to the Myanmar people. Yet, the fact that how effective the sanctions are is not included in the paper.

Impact of sanctions on Myanmar people

Regarding this, I would like to present some points extracted from the report of a group of experts on impact of international sanctions. As the NLD paper states that “If a group of respected experts are to study and analyze the pros and cons of economic sanctions, it will benefit those discussions a great deal.”, I assume
that the stance of the expert group to be presented will be understood.

The expert group was from Britain and it was formed with widely-respected people, who participated in the decision to impose sanctions against Myanmar. As they were policy advisors to the British government, it is undeniable that the reviews and comments included in the report are exact and correct without onesided
attitude towards the Myanmar government.

The report titled “The impact of economic sanctions” is systematically complied and it has conducted thorough study of negative impact of economic sanctions against Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar and Cuba imposed by the West Bloc.

The complier of the report is House of Lords, Select Committee on Economic Affairs and its chairman was Lord Wakeham. He had performed his duties as Leader of the House of Commons and Finance Minister since the time of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He was also assigned duties as a leader in the issue of reforming the organizational setup of the House of Lords. The committee was formed with 16 widely respected members of the House of Lords. Moreover, the paper lacks no expertise as it was also complied with the assistance of special adviser Prof Dr Eric Herring of Bristol University.

The committee compiled the report after making interviews with professors from universities, famous international researchers, retired diplomats, officers of the United Nations, entrepreneurs, bankers, members of the Parliaments, experts in humanitarian, and responsible persons from non-Governmental philanthropic organizations totaling about 30 as human witnesses with the use of documents, e-mails and telephone connections on a wider scale, so it is a reliable reference.

The abstract regarding Myanmar issue from
the report issued on 9 May 2007 states:-

“In the case of Burma, Sanctions are said to be targeted but are nevertheless wide
enough in their impact to hurt the general population.” 

Those wishing to know the detailed information may browse the Internet.

It is easy for a person to find the proof that the sanctions imposed against Myanmar affected the Myanmar people. Officials concerned of the foreign affairs departments from Western countries admitted the effects of imposing sanctions against Myanmar.

The banning of export items from Myanmar under the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act by the United States of America in 2003, forced many garment factories to close down and hundreds of thousands of female workers became jobless. Prohibition on financial services hit remittance service. With regard to the impacts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Department of State Chief of the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs Mr Matthew P Daley on 2 October 2003 gave a testimony at hearings of the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives of the US saying  
“These measures immediately disrupted the economy in Burma, particularly affecting industries reliant on exports to the United States. The garment sector was hardest hit. The prohibition on financial services created instant difficulties for businesses, government agencies, foreign embassies, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and other institutions reliant on the US financial system for trade facilitation and dollar remittance services. The tourist industry has been affected, with travelers unable to use credit cards or US dollar travelers’ checks.”

Mr Daley also reported:
“Unfortunately, the sanctions also affect ordinary people. I note that some international NGOs have expressed concern that the destruction of already troubled export industries, especially the garment sector, will lead to significant unemployment and a spike in economic migrants seeking illegal work inside Burma or over the border in Thailand or China. Within the first month of sanctions, we estimate that more than 40,000 garment sector jobs were lost. In the long term, the garment sector will likely lose 100,000 jobs, most of which were filled by young women. We have credible reports that the concern voiced by some NGOs concerning the fate of these women is well founded and that some have entered the flourishing illegal sex and “entertainment” industries.”

(It can be found that although the paper of the NLD unavoidably admitted the above-mentioned matter, it portrayed such matter as unimportant one. I will present the above-mention matters later.)

Experts, credible persons and officials of State Department revealed the hardships of Myanmar citizens caused by the sanctions against Myanmar. Those who put their reliance too much on West Bloc may find it hard to swallow these excuses but I believe they cannot deny it.

New Light of Myanmar, 14 February 2011


  1. you have some good point there. may i suggest you break these long posts into many shorter ones?

  2. Although I understand your frustration, this post makes up only the first half of this piece. Those interested will read it anyways.

  3. "40,000 garment sector jobs were lost" wow that's weird


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