US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement on Thursday that Win Aung and two of his businesses had been removed from the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, a roster of individuals and entities that cannot conduct business with the United States.
The statement offered little in the way of explanation for his removal, but affirmed that the United States’ “sanctions architecture for Burma remains in place.” Blacklisted individuals can petition for removal from the list, which is maintained by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), though the delisting criteria arefar from transparent.
On Burma (Myanmar), the FAC had recommended:
"We recommend that the government reiterate to the government of Burma that the current situation is still highly unsatisfactory, and that the UK will strongly advocate the re-imposition of sanctions by the EU if there is no progress over the next 12 months in improving the conditions of the Rohingya community, and in securing the unconditional release of all political prisoners. We also recommend that the UK government closely monitors whether former political prisoners who wish to stand for elections in 2015 are able to do so. (Paragraph 45)"
The UK Government's response on this recommendation may be read on pages 10 and 11 of the Report. In general, the Government shares the FAC's concerns, but concludes:
"The elections this year will be a major opportunity to consolidate Burma's progress towards democracy. Credible and inclusive elections in 2015, along with definitive progress towards sustainable nationwide peace, will be the key tests of Burma's commitment to pursuing the transition process. In the lead-up to those elections, we will continue to keep up the pressure, and continue to review, together with our international partners, what the most appropriate response should be to the human rights challenges faced by the people of Burma. For the moment, however, our judgement remains that progress in Burma is better encouraged through engagement, rather than by seeking the re-imposition of EU sanctions, which would require the unanimous consent of all 28 EU member states."
Derek Tonkin writes: It was predictable that the Government would not share the FAC's advocacy of renewed sanctions in the event of a lack of progress on human rights issues. The Government would also have been puzzled by the reference to former political prisoners wishing to stand for election as they are not currently debarred from doing so, nor were they so debarred at the time of the 2010 elections when a number of former political prisoners stood successfully, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The FAC in preparing their Report would not appear to have been well briefed by reliable and independent sources and may have attached too much importance to activist lobbying.
Suu Kyi: More action needed for Myanmar reform
BBC News - 26 December 2014 [includes video interview]
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has told the BBC that the international community must do more to aid reform. Speaking to the Today [radio] programme in Yangon, she told John Bercow, Commons Speaker, guest editor on 26 December for 'Today', that the world had "really lost interest in reform".
She also called for the constitution to be amended to allow her to stand for the presidency. She said she believed that the majority of the people of Myanmar were in favour of changing the law in order for her to stand.
"We believe absolutely that the constitution will be amended in the right way, sooner or later. And the sooner the better. I do believe in the influence of the people over a so-called democratic form of government."
Derek Tonkin writes: In response to John Bercow's unsupported assertion that "frankly many voices in the UK are suggesting that perhaps they [sanctions] should be reintroduced", Suu Kyi made it clear that: "I don't like going backwards, I like going forwards, so I think that rather than reintroducing old methods, I think what would help greatly would be if everybody seriously put their minds to doing whatever they can to encourage negotiations to take place.That is the doorway to the future." John Bercow was over the years a firm supporter of the toughest sanctions possible, without ever analysing the likely effects of the draconian policies he recommended: a good example of political posturing.
UK Foreign Affairs Committee urge return of sanctions if abuses don't stop
William Boot: The Irrawaddy - 28 November 2014
An influential British parliamentary committee has told the UK government it should press for a re-imposition of European economic sanctions on Burma if there is no improvement in the country’s human rights situation over the next 12 months.
“We recommend that the government reiterate to the government of Burma that the current situation is still highly unsatisfactory, and that the UK will strongly advocate the re-imposition of sanctions by the EU if there is no progress over the next 12 months,” a report by the British parliament’s [House of Commons] Foreign Affairs Committee said this week.
The recommendation follows a review of the British Foreign Office’s work on human rights in Burma and other countries.
Derek Tonkin writes: The FAC report included the following conclusions on Myanmar:
"There have been serious failures in human rights in Burma over the past 18 months, and we note that the Government has not held back from criticism. On balance, we accept its argument that there has been progress towards forming democracy in Burma, and we agree that a diplomatic approach towards securing improvement in human rights in Burma is the best one. However, we recommend that the Government reiterate to the Government of Burma that the current situation is still highly unsatisfactory, and that the UK will strongly advocate the re-imposition of sanctions by the EU if there is no progress over the next 12 months in improving the conditions of the Rohingya community, and in securing the unconditional release of all political prisoners."
The FAC does not explain why they believe the reimposition of sanctions would be any more effective than they were under direct military rule to influence the Myanmar Government. The reference to sanctions is accordingly not to be taken seriously as there is likely to be no appetite at all in the EU generally to follow such a negative course. It would also be foolish to prejudge the situation by threatening the Myanmar Government with sanctions at this stage unless they do more to contain human rights abuses.
- The seductive mystique of sanctions - Derek Tonkin
- Discussion in the Security Council on 25 November 2014 on the utility of sanctions
Old sanctions fears stall new Myanmar trade
Wall Street Journal - 8 September 2014
It’s been two years since the U.S. eased sanctions on Myanmar, which had amounted to a near-total ban on doing business in the country. The change came after the country’s military regime allowed the formation of a civilian government in 2011. And now, to edge the country’s leaders towards a democratic transition, U.S. diplomats are pushing for American companies to invest in Myanmar.
But those efforts have been hindered by the legacy of sanctions and the increasing care that banks take on compliance after a rash of record fines. Few U.S. banks are willing to transfer money into or out of the country. And even money transfers through a third country like Singapore often get blocked by U.S. firms if Myanmar appears in a company name, said Charlotte O’Sullivan, a Yangon-based human resources consultant, who has had wires to her personal U.S. accounts blocked. “No matter how many times you tell bank it’s legal, they still freak out,” said Ms. O’Sullivan. “It’s just not worth it to them.”
Many banks see allowing any Myanmar transactions as problematic. Despite lifting of the broad ban, U.S. authorities still blacklist more than a hundred Myanmar companies and individuals because of alleged relationships with the country’s military. “If they are doing financial transactions in the country we have no way of knowing where [the money] is going,” said Mr. Suhr, the SunTrust bank spokesman. Continue reading.....
US Sanctions: Latest
- Sanctions make US business difficult, not impossible - Wall Street Journal
- How this reporter paid US$ 468 to a Burmese crony - Washington Post
- US waives sanctions on Myanmar timber - IPS News Agency
- Late recognition of black-listed hotel owner caused issue: US Embassy
- The real victims of US sanctions on Myanmar: Simon Tay, Cheryl Tan - Japan Times
Amending and Reissuing of US Burma Sanctions Regulations
OFAC - 30 June 2014
The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has published a final rule in the Federal Register, amending and reissuing in their entirety the Burmese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 537 (the Regulations), to implement a series of Executive orders that the President has issued to modify the scope of and take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13047 of May 22, 1997.
To implement the blocking and other prohibitions in these Executive orders, OFAC is amending the Regulations to add and remove prohibitions, definitions, and interpretations. OFAC also is incorporating into the Regulations several general licenses that previously had been posted only on the Burma page of OFAC’s website, as well as removing certain general licenses and statements of licensing policy as no longer relevant.
GAP to bring 'Made in Myanmar' to US shelves
The Myanmar Times - 7 June 2014
Apparel giant Gap Inc has become the first major US retailer to source garments produced in Myanmar since the easing of sanctions in a move that those in the industry hope will signal the arrival of more international investment. The San Francisco-based company placed an order earlier this year for outerwear to be made at two factories in Yangon. The jackets and vests, which are for the company’s Old Navy and Banana Republic Factory brands, will be shipped to the United States in June and available for sale in stores later this summer.
After consulting with US Customs and conducting two focus groups, the garments manufactured in Yangon will carry tags reading “Made in Myanmar (Burma)”. While the company is not investing directly in Myanmar, Gap Inc will source from factories owned by a South Korean company that has a long-standing business relationship with it in other markets, said Debbie Mesloh, senior director of government and public affairs at Gap Inc.
US renews limited sanctions on Burma
Democratic Voice of Burma - 16 May 2014
US President Barack Obama renewed limited investment sanctions on Burma on Thursday, signing the ongoing “National Emergency” situation on the country for at least one more year.
The move prohibits US businesses and individuals from investing in Burma or doing business with military, government officials and any others associated with repression of the democracy movement since the mid-1990s.
In a statement issued by the White House, Obama noted the significant progress the Burmese government has made in certain areas, but cited ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas, particularly Arakan State, as reasons for the renewal of sanctions, as well as the continued role of the military in Burma’s political and economic activities.
Derek Tonkin writes: This is a rather bizarre annual ritual which requires the President to certify that "the situation in the country continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." Not for a moment does anyone in Congress or the White House actually believe this, but the use of this formula enables the legislation to be imposed initially, or renewed, with the minimum of legislative hassle. Currently over 20 countries are deemed to present such an improbable threat.
- Burma only technically an 'extraordinary threat': US Envoy - The Irrawaddy
- Chamber of Commerce says US sanctions 'not a big issue' - DVB
US sanctions: cutting off our nose to spite our face
Stanley Weiss: Huffington Post Blog - 28 March 2014
A sanctions list that punishes cronies but removes thugs makes no sense, morally or economically. It perpetuates a false standard and begs the question: what does the U.S. really want to achieve in Myanmar? If the answer is, "to cut off our nose to spite our face," then mission accomplished.
All it does is put U.S. businesses at a significant disadvantage, while driving investment to other countries. The E.U. and Australia - which together had over a thousand individuals and companies on their sanctions lists - lifted their sanctions between 2012 and 2013. Asia has no restrictions on or qualms about working with anyone in Myanmar. Meanwhile, U.S. businesses are barred from working with some of the very people who are most central to the success of the Myanmar economy.
OFAC - Burma Sanctions Program
Office of Foreign Assets Control - Update 29 January 2014
This fact sheet is a broad summary of US sanctions currently in place against Myanmar,
The Burma sanctions program implemented by the Office of Foreign Assets Control began in May 1997 when the President, in Executive Order 13047, determined that the Government of Burma (then ruled by a military junta) had committed large-scale repression of the democratic opposition in Burma and declared a national emergency with respect to the actions and policies of that government.
Several subsequent Executive Orders have been issued to modify the scope of and take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in E.O. 13047. In May 2012, the President and the Secretary of State announced that the United States would begin easing certain financial and investment sanctions on Burma in response to the historic reforms taking place there. Since July 2012, the U.S. Government has taken various actions in response to the reforms in Burma.
Sanctions' Successes and Failures
The New York Times - 20 November 2013
A discussion among 'experts' on the effectivenss or otherwise of sanctions. Suzanne Dimaggio of the Asia Society sees the easing of sanctions against Myanmar as a means of applying leverage, but in his comment Derek Tonkin highlights how massively counterproductive sanctions against Myanmar have been.
Burma: Joint Letter to President Obama on updating the SDN list
Human Rights Watch - 5 November 2013
"We are writing to urge your Administration to carefully calibrate its targeted sanctions on
select individuals and entities in Burma. In particular, we urge the State Department in
association with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury
Department to update the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list with respect to
Burma and implement unambiguous criteria for removing and adding persons to the list.
We further urge that the criteria be made public." Continue reading.....
Derek Tonkin writes: This letter jointly signed by 37 human rights organizations, many based outside the US, follows on from a letter of 12 August 2013 in which 27 organizations sought the President's support in enforcing on US companies reporting requirements which seem not to have been respected by many companies. It is generally recognised that the US SDN List is scarcely fit for purpose, but there would seem to be those in the US Administration who have doubts about the need for such a list in any case. The SDN list is indeed in a shambles, but the efforts of the 37 human rights organizations have the hallmark of a rather forlorn last-ditch effort.
Burma: Joint Letter to President Obama on Reporting Requirements
Human Rights Watch - 12 August 2013
A Joint Letter to President Obama signed by 27 human rights organisations regrets that the first reports from companies under the Burma Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements "exhibit serious informational gaps" and so fail to support US foreign policy interests.
Under the Requirements, companies engaged in investment in Myanmar must, in principle, submit two reports annually on 1 July, one a US Government Report, the second a Public Report. Information in the Government Report may be withheld from the Public Report in circumstances set out in the Requirements.
The relevant documents are:
- Burmese Sanctions Regulations: General License No.17 - US Treasury Department
- Burma: Fact Sheet on RIR Requirements - US State Department
- Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements in detail - US State Department
- Responsible Investment Reporting: Five Public Reports - US Embassy Yangon
- Code of Federal Regulations - Part 537: Burma Sanctions Regulations
Derek Tonkin writes: Three of the five reporting companies each hold very minor shareholdings (about 0.24% each) in Yoma Strategic Holdings ('YOMA') which is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The combined shareholding is so marginal - less than 1% of YOMA - and only a very small fraction of their own investment portfolios - that it is unlikely that the three companies could exert any tangible influence on YOMA policies even if they wished to. At link may be found a list of the 35 major shareholders (Funds and Institutions) investing in YOMA. It is possible that the three companies concerned acquired shares during the last 12 months or so through rights issues, to fund projects in Myanmar, and this could be held to represent "new investment" as defined in US regulations.
YOMA publish their own Corporate Social Responsibility statement which the three companies would have inspected before investing. It is possible, even likely that the three companies sought advice from the US authorities about whether they needed to submit reports at all. If asked, the authorities might well have recommended that they should do so, to be on the safe side. The YOMA Annual Report to 31 March 2013 is at this link. The major shareholder in YOMA is Burmese entrepreneur Serge Pun.
The other two companies have an indirect, though very modest involvement with the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise ('MOGE') which they no doubt felt needed to be reported.
Singapore Stock Market News examines YOMA as a Myanmar play against 26 other Myanmar plays on the Singapore Stock Market. Almost all these 26 plays, though, have only fractional interests in Myanmar compared with YOMA and, to a lesser extent, Interra Resources.
The US Campaign for Burma lists 35 US companies "investing in Burma" and another 19 which have expressed a serious interest in investing. It is not yet clear why all 35 said to be investing have not yet filed reports.
US Sanctions Policies: Actions and Reactions
- White House: Executive Order prohibiting imports of Burmese jadeite and rubies
- White House: Presidential letter prohibiting certain imports
- White House: Official statement on the expiration of the general ban on imports
- US Department of Treasury: Issuance of New Burma Executive Order
- Reuters: US updates Myanmar sanctions to maintain gem import ban
- Comment: US extends ban on gems imports - Matthew Pennington, The Irrawaddy
Derek Tonkin writes: The US Treasury announcement makes it clear that the US "continues to broaden American engagement in Myanmar, including increased opportunities for trade and investment." The continuing ban on imports of jadeite and rubies is largely an act of political symbolism, as China is far and away the greatest importer of jadeite, while the ban on imports of rubies affects Thai and Singaporean jewellery exporters as much (if not more) than Myanmar itself. About 30% of jadeite and ruby mining in Myanmar is held by private concessions. In all other respects the import ban has now been rescinded, though commercial dealings with Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) require special licensing.
US Burma Sanctions
US Treasury Resource Center - accessed 17 May 2013
Derek Tonkin writes: In the context of President Thein Sein's forthcoming visit to the US, readers may wish to be reminded of the current status of the US sanctions regime, which remains complex and still impinges on non-US companies seeking to do business with and invest in Myanmar.
The expectation is that trade relations with the US will be normalised before the end of the present year, with the restoration of the US Generalized System of Preferences. Other concessions may also be announced at the time of the visit. The US however remains wedded to its policy of "action for action" based on benchmarks which all other Western countries except Canada have consigned to history on the grounds that perfection is impossibly idealistic.
In March 2013 the US Department of the Treasury issued a series of 'FAQs' about the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) containing both general information and specific information on Burma/Myanmar. The specific Q & As on Burma Sanctions may be found at this link.
An Associated Press report which appeared in the 'Washington Post' on 18 May 2013 has noted that: "The Obama administration didn’t add anyone to the U.S. government’s Myanmar sanctions list over 3½ years, despite recommendations from the U.S. Embassy in Yangon to blacklist hundreds of top officials and their business cronies, as well as military and private companies, according to an Associated Press examination of hundreds of pages of government documents, and more than a dozen interviews with officials and business leaders in Myanmar and Washington…….
The U.S. list includes just 39 individuals and 65 companies, after stripping out aliases and duplicate entries. Australia’s sanctions list named 392 individuals, before it was repealed in June 2012. The EU listed 656 individuals and companies, plus another 1,207 companies in the timber, metals and gem industries, money-makers for the military that were banned to European investors. The EU suspended its restrictions a year ago, then lifted them entirely last month.....
The last powerful tool it has to punish the bad guys and encourage the good ones has fallen way out of date, even though legislation instructs the government to keep the list current. That risks reinforcing a corrupt economic system that has concentrated wealth in the hands of politically-connected businessmen."
The latest 'Burma SDN list' may be found at this link, extracted from the complete OFAC list of SDNs. A Search Facility also exists. A 'Washington Post' article of 22 May 2012 includes a more easily understandable matrix of sanctioned individuals and companies as at 1 May 2012.
Derek Tonkin writes: The OFAC 'Burma' SDN list is clearly in a state of shambles from which it is never likely to recover as pressures to finally lift all sanctions grow on the US President and Congress.
Politics Home - 25 April 2013
Conservative MP David Burrowes calls for what he describes as the slow and inconsistent reforms in Burma to be accelerated to prevent mass atrocities and protect human rights.
"We must never be simplistic when talking about Burma. It is a rich, complex, conflicted country, full of old scores and new hope. Recent years have seen great strides in the march towards freedom and justice, but the journey is still young. Deep divisions remain, and are being systematically widened by communities, monks, police, and even the Government. One week political prisoners are freed, the next mass graves are filled."Continue reading…..
In the aftermath of the lifting of sanctions by the EU
- EU sanctions against Myanmar 1988-2013: Rest in Peace - Derek Tonkin
- US confirms their continuing 'calibrated approach' to sanctions - State Department
- ITUC-FTUM statement on the lifting of EU sanctions on Myanmar
- Myanmar frees dozens of prisoners - Agence France-Presse
- Burma hails EU lifting of sanctions - The Irrawaddy
- FCO Minister Hugo Swire: "The time is right to lift EU sanctions" - UK Gov Website
- Burma: The EU has been too quick to lift sanctions - David Mepham, The Guardian
- A dark day for human rights in Burma - Scott Battey, Physicians for Human Rights
EU lifts sanctions against Burma
BBC Asia News - 22 April 2013
The European Union has lifted the last of its trade, economic and individual sanctions against Burma in response to its political reform programme. The sanctions were temporarily lifted last year, and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi agreed Burma's progress merited the move being made permanent.
An EU foreign ministers' meeting said an arms embargo would stay in place. It warned Burma needed to address "significant challenges", particular regarding its minority Muslims.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who for years supported the sanctions against the country's military rulers, backed the EU's decision, telling the BBC the democracy movement could not depend on sanctions forever. "It is time we let these sanctions go," she said. "I don't want to rely on external factors forever to bring about national reconciliation which is the key to progress in our country."
- Text of Council Conclusions on Myanmar/Burma - EU Press Office 22 April 2013
- Remarks by the EU High Representative following the Council Meeting
- Critics hit out at EU move on Myanmar - Gwen Robinson, Financial Times
- Ending sanctions undercuts Burma's rights progress - Human Rights Watch
Derek Tonkin writes: Contrary to assertions by human rights organisations, the EU never set any immutable "benchmarks" which had to be met before sanctions could finally be lifted. The Foreign Affairs Council has reiterated its concerns about human rights issues, but has stressed its readiness to cooperate in the resolution of the complex challenges facing the country. The EU's conclusions are creative and proactive, and could not possibly have been reached if the decision had been taken to extend the threat of sanctions.
EU to lift sanctions against Burma
The Telegraph (UK) - 20 April 2013
Damien McElroy reports that sanctions against Burma will be lifted permanently by EU Foreign Ministers on Monday despite reluctance by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to support the changes.
William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, is quoted as saying: “I discussed the situation in Burma over the phone last week with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and agreed with her that now is the time for the EU’s relationship to move beyond sanctions, with the exception of the arms embargo.” Diplomats admitted that Miss Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest, had not wanted the EU to remove the trade and investment measures permanently. Lobbying by British officials managed to fend off a German attempt to end the military embargo on top of the removal of the other sanctions.
Derek Tonkin writes: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has made no public statement on the matter in recent months. It is equally possible that she has quietly supported the final lifting of sanctions. There have been no other reports of German efforts to lift the arms embargo. It all sounds to me rather like political spin.
EU set to lift sanctions, except on arms
Reuters - 17 April 2013
The European Union is expected to lift all sanctions on Myanmar next week, except for an arms embargo, in recognition of the "remarkable process of reform" in the country, a document seen by Reuters showed on Wednesday. The step, which was agreed by EU ambassadors on Wednesday, paving the way for ministerial approval on Monday, will allow European companies to invest in Myanmar, which has significant natural resources and borders economic giants China and India. "The EU is willing to open a new chapter in its relations with Myanmar, building a lasting partnership," said the document which contains the draft conclusions for Monday's EU foreign ministers' meeting. Continue reading.....
Home Truths about those Sanctions
Mizzima - 2 April 2013
Derek Tonkin examines the latest mythology surrounding Myanmar, which is that sanctions actually "worked", and urges the EU Foreign Affairs Council to finally lift all economic, financial and commercial sanctions when they meet on 22 April 2013 to decide future policy on the country. If the EU so agree, that would effectively leave the United States as the only country to maintain a sanctions regime against Myanmar.
- Jimmy Carter calls for an end to Myanmar sanctions - Mizzima
- Text of Jimmy Carter's speech in Yangon on 4 April 2013
- The folly of sanctions - Stanley Weiss, The Irrawaddy
- Joint Open Letter on EU review of suspended sanctions - FIDH
- Burma's treatment of the Rohingya and international law - Burma Campaign UK
- The EU must not abandon human rights benchmarks - Buma Campaign UK
- European Union should not lift sanctions on Burma - Burma Campaign UK
EU moves to reinstate Myanmar's preferential trade status
Mizzima - 22 March 2013
The EU should reinstate Myanmar's duty and quota free access to the EU market, said the European Parliament's International Trade Committee on Thursday. In a statement on its website, the European Parliament (EP) said the recommendation reflects the European Commission's proposal to support Myanmar in its reforms, in particular its efforts to eradicate forced labor.The reinstatement of trade preferences, backed by the Trade Committee by 28 votes to 2, with no abstentions, but yet to be adopted by the full House and approved by member states, will give Myanmar duty and quota free access to the EU market for all its exports except arms and ammunition. This could help raise Myanmar's exports by 30 percent, estimates the European Commission.
Derek Tonkin writes:Denial of GSP was agreed by the EU in 1997 in response to pressures by European trade unions over forced labour abuses in Myanmar. However, as a 'targeted' sanction against the military and its cronies, this measure had no impact at all on those responsible for forced labour in the country - primarily the military - but directly hit labour-intensive industries in the private sector exporting garments, textiles and sea-food.
US Burma Sanctions: Frequently asked Questions
In May 2012, President Obama announced that the United States would begin to ease certain financial and investment sanctions on Burma in response to the historic reforms that have been taking place in that country.
On July 11, 2012, the Administration took steps to broadly authorize the exportation of U.S. financial services to Burma by issuing General License No. 16 (GL 16), and to permit the first new U.S. investment in Burma in nearly 15 years by issuing General License No. 17 (GL 17).
On November 16, 2012, the Administration took another step toward normalizing our economic relationship with Burma by issuing General License No. 18 (GL 18) to broadly authorize the importation of Burmese-origin goods, except jadeite and rubies, into the United States for the first time in almost a decade.
On February 22, 2013, General License No. 19 (GL 19) was issued to authorize U.S. persons to conduct most transactions – including opening and maintaining accounts and conducting a range of other financial services – with four of Burma’s major financial institutions: Asia Green Development Bank, Ayeyarwady Bank, Myanma Economic Bank, and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank.
Derek Tonkin writes: The panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation made no serious attempt to analyse the reasons behind the reform progamme in Myanmar which most people, including the panel, agree has moved ahead far more rapidly than we might have dared to hope. The panel argued only that a significant reason was the success of the sanctions policies pursued by successive US administrations over a number of years. However, no specific evidence was produced of this during the discussion, though the view of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi that sanctions had worked was quoted approvingly.
This myth about the effectiveness of sanctions - See Myth No. 12 at this link - is held as well by British politicians, most recently expressed by the Senior FCO Minister of State Baroness Warsi to whom I recently addressed a letter on the matter. The UK is under pressure from the rest of the EU to finally lift sanctions when policy on Myanmar is reviewed in April: a decision needs to be taken by 30 April 2013. Activist groups in the UK are calling for the re-imposition of sanctions and a barrage of questions has been addressed to Ministers in the two Houses of Parliament on issues like the Rohingya and the fighting in Kachin State.
During the discussion, Tom Malinowski, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch, drew attention to the importance of the "Specially Designated Nationals" or SDN list which he said "affects the ability of Burmese actors to do business throughout the world because of the US role in the global banking system". As the US is now the only country to have such a list, the impact is in fact marginal where the rest of the world is concerned. On financial transfers into Myanmar, it is only necessary to ensure that these are not routed electronically through New York, where they could be intercepted. In all other respects, 'Burmese actors' are now free to operate internationally, except in the US.
On the UK position with respect to sanctions, Alistair Burt said: "Our position on sanctions is very clear. The sanctions in relation to Burma have only been suspended; they have not been lifted. Could they be reimposed? Oh, yes, they could. Whether or not the Foreign Affairs Council in April moves to lift rather than suspend them will depend on the progress that Burma is making in relation to the challenges it has been set in dealing with ethnic conflict and the political process. I do not doubt for a moment that the Burmese Government are well aware of the conditions that are likely to attach to any further progress in relation to sanctions."
Obama signs Myanmar finance bill into law
The US Treasury said that the move will support "stronger institutions to ensure sound economic policy and good governance in Burma" and would support development and help reintegrate the isolated state into the global economy. At the order of the US president, American representatives will be empowered by the law to support financial assistance from international bodies for Myanmar. "Implementation of this law will provide the United States with the ability to shape the policies and activities of these institutions in a way that advances reform, good governance, transparency and accountability in Burma," said Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin.
US to begin process of easing import restrictions
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told President Thein Sein in New York that "in recognition of the continued progress toward reform and in response to requests from both the government and the opposition, the United States is taking the next step in normalizing our commercial relationship. We will begin the process of easing restrictions on imports of Burmese goods into the United States. We hope this will provide more opportunities for your people to sell their goods into our market. As we do so, we will continue consulting with Congress and other relevant stakeholders about additional steps, while at the same time working with you and supporting those who are hoping that the reform will be permanent and progress will be continuing."
Derek Tonkin writes: The process of easing sanctions is complex. There are no fewer than five Acts and four Presidential Executive Orders governing sanctions, and none of these has yet been totally rescinded. The President may exercise a presidential waiver at his discretion to revoke the import ban, but some sensitive items like timber, jade, gems and precious metals may still be caught by e.g. the Tom Lantos Ban Burmese Jade Act of 2008. The Administration needs to liaise with Congress about overlapping and interlocking measures and sort out which items (e.g. garments) might be given priority. Imports originating from or connected with "Specially Designated Nationals" or so-called 'cronies' will still be banned. It is all likely to take rather longer than many suppose and with presidential elections due on 6 November 2012, both Administration and Congress will need to watch carefully lest political advantage be lost or gained inadvertently.
US Congress reauthorizes import ban on Myanmar
"The continuation of US sanctions in any form is a public threat. Such public threats against nations often cause intense nationalistic responses, as they did for so many years in Myanmar under the previous military junta. But in the Myanmar case such threats are interpreted as a vibrant sign of something more subtle: a form of US arrogance." Read more.....
Derek Tonkin writes: Congress has renewed a generalised sanction which will mainly affect the Myanmar people. I doubt that this measure has the support of Suu Kyi who recently spoke to Senator Mitch McConnell, a strong advocate of the renewal. This is in no sense a "smart" sanction.
- Senate passes McConnell-sponsored legislation - Senator McConnell's website
- Congressman Crowley applauds passage of bipartisan measure - his website
- Text of Bill H.R. 5986 and Debate in the House of Representatives on 2 August
- Text of Bill S. 3326 (identical to H.R. 5986) and Debate in the Senate on 2 August
US firms can push Burma reforms
The Irrawaddy - 24 July 2012
US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Robert Hormats has told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington: “We want American companies to go in … we think that American companies by practicing as they do in other parts of the world - social responsibilities, environmental responsibilities, dealing with ethnic minorities in a very constructive way - can actually augment, assist [and] facilitate the reform process and we think that is important.
“We are particularly focused on transparency. This is critical from our point of view and is critical from the point of Aung San Suu Kyi and that is why we want full disclosure of what our companies are doing, with whom they are doing it and where they are doing it.” However, Hormats revealed that a timetable for the permanent easing of sanctions on Burma has still not been drawn up, while conceding that any further democratic and economic reform would be matched by the Obama administration. He also expects more political prisoners to be released soon.
Derek Tonkin writes: The US Administration is still very much focussed on "action for action" in Myanmar, a reflection of traditional US "conditionality" policies based on performance against benchmarks, a strategy which has generally been unsuccessful over the years, for example in resolving the Cuba issue. In response to questions, Hormats made it clear that:
- US sanctions legislation remains unchanged.
- Action to ease sanctions has been by means of Presidential waivers.
- He would not be drawn on when a waiver might be made to mitigate the continuing ban on Myanmar imports.
- The resumption of funding by international financial institutions would require changes to legislation.
US Envoy says too early to end all sanctions
Agence France-Presse - 20 July 2012
The new US ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell said Friday that it was too soon to abolish all sanctions against Myanmar, as Congress considers extending a ban on imports from the impoverished country. Keeping some measures in place was "an insurance policy for the future in case things reverse," he told reporters, noting the fast pace of reforms since the end of decades of military rule last year. "We're talking about a rapid process. It's only really been a little over a year and there are still some questions about the future," he said, adding that the import ban could be revisited later if the reform process continues.
Derek Tonkin writes: The news that the Senate Finance Committee is recommending the renewal for three years of the total ban on imports from Myanmar undermines recent statements by US officials that the US was moving away from "blunter" generalised sanctions to more "targeted" measures. Over 80% of Myanmar exports in the run-up to the ban imposed by the 2003 Burma Freedom and Democracy Act were in the labour-intensive industry of garment manufacture. Suu Kyi is known to support such industries and it remains to be seen whether her recent contact with Senator Mitch McConnell, who had earlier claimed rather improbably that she supported the renewal of the ban, will have any effect. In this presidential election year the protectionist statement by Representative Dave Camp in support of the ban should come as no surprise.
A Selection of Comment since 1989 by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Sanctions
Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burmese independence hero Aung San, said that foreign countries should suspend all trade and economic relations with the junta "until they keep their promises" to hold free and fair multi-party elections.
"We are not anti-business but we oppose investment in Burma today because our real malady is not economic but political..... Profits from business enterprises will merely go towards enriching a small, already very privileged elite. Companies such as Unocal and Pepsi, ARCO and Texaco only serve to prolong the agony of my country by encouraging the present military regime to persevere in its intransigence."
"This is what the government seems to be hinting at: that it's because we are calling for sanctions that they have not entered dialogue..... So I think that for the authorities to say now that calling for sanctions will prevent dialogue is just a ploy to stop us calling for sanctions. I think it's got to be the other way around. Dialogue first, before we stop our call for sanctions."
US President announces easing of sanctions on Burma
White House - 11 July 2012
"Today, the United States is easing restrictions to allow U.S. companies to responsibly do business in Burma. President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma continue to make significant progress along the path to democracy, and the government has continued to make important economic and political reforms. Easing sanctions is a strong signal of our support for reform, and will provide immediate incentives for reformers and significant benefits to the people of Burma." Read more.....
- Text of General License No. 16 dated 11 July 2012
- Text of General License No. 17 dated 11 July 2012
- Reporting Requirements on Responsible Investment in Burma issued on 11 July 2012
- Burma Sanctions: Resource Center - US Treasury
- US eases sanctions on Mynamar: Reactions - Agency sources
- US eases sanctions in rare difference with Suu Kyi - Christian Science Monitor
- Suu Kyi's party welcomes eased US sanctions on Myanmar - Agence France-Presse
- US allows investment, includes oil and gas, in biggest roll-back yet - Washington Post
- Rights groups assail US decision on Myanmar - International Herald Tribune
- The risks of haste in easing Burma's sanctions - Freedom House
But Congress holds fast to the 2003 Burma Freedom and Democracy Act and the 2008 Tom Lantos Block Burmese Jade Act. The BFDA is currently up for renewal for another three years, including a continuing ban for one year on Burmese exports to the US. Coca Cola expects to sell their drinks again soon in Myanmar, but Burmese garments are still to be excluded from the US market. The President though can waive his magic wand and rescind the ban. Suu Kyi should talk this week to Ambassador Derek Mitchell about the struggling, labour-intensive garment industry in her country whose exports were over 80% in value of Burmese exports to the US in the run-up to the BFDA in 2003. She might be appalled that Senators McConnell and Feinstein have claimedthat she supports the ban.
Reuters - 21 June 2012
"This must-do legislation has strong bipartisan and broad industry support. It will benefit U.S. global competitiveness, aid U.S. employment and global development, and strengthen our ties with fifty-five U.S. trading partners in Africa and the Western Hemisphere," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said in statement.
Derek Tonkin writes: In the Senate hearing, both Senators McConnell and Feinstein asserted that the legislation had the support of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She must be furious to learn that blatant US protectionism is openly lauded as a major reason for the likely continuing congressional ban on Myanmar exports.
The realities behind the US ban on imports
Democratic Voice of Burma - 18 June 2012
Derek Tonkin analyses the background to the recent Joint Senate-House of Representatives Resolution in the US Congress to extend the Burma Freedom and Democacy Act for another three years, including for another year only the total ban on Burmese exports to the US. Although Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is quoted in the Senate debate as agreeing to this ban, the writer doubts that the implications were fully explained to her, since the ban would above all affect exports of garments to the US, a labour-intensive industry which Suu Kyi would surely regard as an important employer of labour. Suu Kyi has been at pains in both Bangkok and Europe to declare the importance she attaches to job creation. Has she been misled? Read more in hyperlinked version.....
The Senator's Website - 12 June 2012
In proposing the renewal of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), Senator McConnell notes that " in 18 months Suu Kyi has gone from political prisoner to member of parliament. That in and of itself is a remarkable change and it reflects more broadly the wide-ranging reforms that have occurred in the country. In response to the Burmese government’s efforts, on May 17, the State Department announced that it would undertake a number of administrative steps to ease sanctions against Burma. These include removing both the investment ban and the financial services ban against Burma, except in transactions involving bad actors. In addition to suspending certain economic sanctions, the administration announced that it would exchange full ambassadors with Naypyitaw. I support each of these steps taken by the State Department.
The Senator observes however that renewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act would leave intact the import ban against Burmese goods, thus maintaining leverage the executive branch can utilize to help prompt further reform. Reauthorizing this measure would permit the executive branch - in consultation with Congress - to calibrate sanctions as necessary, thus preserving its flexibility.
Derek Tonkin writes. In the years leading up to the BFDA, over 80% of US imports from Myanmar were garments. The effect of the import ban introduced in 2003 was to cause serious damage to the Myanmar garment industry, which had been struggling to survive and which was overwhelmingly owned by private non-crony entrepreneurs. Some 50,000 mostly female workers became unemployed. The ban represented and still represents no leverage of any kind on the government except to aggravate their endeavours to support poverty alleviation.
Brisbane Times - 5 June 2012
Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr has made a symbolic gesture to Burma in apparent recognition of political reforms, bestowing the name "Myanmar" on the eve of a visit to the country. The ancient name, adopted in the modern era by the former military junta, had long been a sore point, with democracy advocates insisting that "Burma" be used. The Minister for Foreign Affairs issued a statement this morning announcing a three-day visit "to assess what more Australia, as a neighbouring country, can do to support reform efforts in Myanmar".
Suu Kyi says trade, sanctions aid Burma - The Age (Australia) - 7 June 2012
Suu Kyi is quoted as saying:" I am in favour of suspended sanctions because that makes it quite clear that good behaviour will be rewarded and if the good behaviour is not maintained the rewards can also be taken away. I believe that sanctions have had great effect politically - if they had not had such effect the government of Burma would not have been so eager to have them removed. So we are very appreciative of the political effectiveness of sanctions. But in the ultimate analysis we depend neither on sanctions nor on other external factors for real change in our country. We depend on ourselves."
Derek Tonkin writes:In fact, Australia has lifted most sanctions permanently. No doubt they could always be reinstated if conditions warranted this. In that eventual situation there would seem to be little or no practical difference between reinstating sanctions which have been lifted and those which have been suspended. In both cases sanctions would need to be reinstated.
The reason why the Myanmar Government is anxious to see sanctions permanently lifted is that, in financial and economic terms, they have more than anything affected the population and debilitated the economy generally, like the withdrawal of bilateral development aid, the denial of support from the IMF, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and action against labour-intensive industries. Targeted sanctions have had little or no financial effect, but some psychological impact on the leadership. Perhaps this is what SuuKyi means when she speaks of their "great effect politically". In terms of financial and economic pressure, though, they have been massively counterproductive.
HM Treasury - 16 May 2012
2. The effect of the suspensions referred to in (a) [asset freeze] and (b) [investment ban] above is that there is no prohibition on dealing with the funds or economic resources of those persons listed in Annex VI to the 2008 Regulation, or making funds or economic resources available to them, nor any prohibition on investing in the manners provided for in Article 15(2) of the 2008 Regulation in those entities listed in Annexes V and VII to the 2008 Regulation. In terms of compliance requirements, suspension is no different from permanent revocation: in both cases, the prohibitions do not apply.
US State Department - 17 May 2012
- "First, the approach here is to take the bluntness out of the sanctions that have been there to date. What we are doing is easing on society at large and carefully looking to target what we call the spoilers, the bad actors within the system.
- "Second, we believe our companies are really the best models for best practices around the world. We expect and we are very confident that our companies can model the behavior we are seeking inside the country, that the people of the country are seeking for themselves, which is transparency, accountability, equity, benefit to the citizens and not simply to the elites and the other, as we would call them, bad actors in the country.
- "Third, it’s very important that folks understand that we will continue to listen to voices, particularly inside the country, but also in our NGO community, in Congress, with whom we’ve had a very deep and productive partnership on this."
Change of Approach: Extract from Q&A Session
Question: Just last month we were doing one of these backgrounders, and it seemed at that point, you guys were looking at very specific targeting sectors as a way to do this, and you guys named jade, oil, some of these things that are very tied closely with the military, as sectors you would avoid. I was wondering what changed in terms of the thinking, and why you guys ended up going down this road.
Response: On the issue of sectors in specific, it was asked during the previous backgrounder about sectors, and off the cuff, we would list various sectors that raised questions...... there are still questions, I think, about mining and timber and oil and gas. I mean, they’re legitimate questions. I think we can get at them effectively through the method that we are, which is to, again, target the entities, the individuals, and the activities rather than do it simply by sector. So it’s just that I think the last time, we were at the start of the process and we’ve been doing some very, very careful consideration, and we’re very confident this is the best way to go in that effort.
- Presidential Notice of 17 May 2012 continuing the National Emergency
- US Treasury Resource Center on Burma Sanctions
- Statement of 17 May 2012 by US President Obama on Burma - White House
- US State Department: Fact Sheet on People to People Exchanges
- US firms eye Myanmar as sanctions suspended - Reuters
- As relations warm with Myanmar, US will ease trade limits - The New York Times
- Obama declares Myanmar open to US mining investment - Mineweb
- Derek Mitchell named US Ambassador to Myanmar - Associated Press
- US eases sanctions and names Ambassador to Myanmar - Associated Press
- US Campaign for Burma predictably expresses concern
- Statement by Senator Webb, who believes US policy must be more pro-active
US says "eyes wide open" on Myanmar
Reuters - 12 May 2012
The United States is matching Myanmar's tentative steps toward democracy after decades of harsh military rule with a calibrated re-engagement, aware of the potential for setbacks, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Friday. Patrick Murphy, the State Department's Head of the Mainland SE Asian Burerau, said Washington is deepening its engagement with the reformist government, looking at easing more sanctions and likely to appoint a U.S. ambassador "in coming weeks." "We embrace these changes that are taking place with eyes wide open," he said in remarks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
In his latest comments Senator John McCain has called for the suspension of all economic sanctions against Myanmar. “Following the recent election that brought Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy into the parliament, I think now is the time to suspend US sanctions ….. except for the arms embargo, and targeted measures we maintain against individuals and entities in Burma that undermine democracy, violate human rights and plunder the nation’s resources. This would not be a lifting of sanctions, just a suspension. And this step, as well as any additional easing of sanctions, would depend on continued progress and reform in Burma."
McCain said Aung San Suu Kyi has made the distinction between the right and wrong kinds of investment. “The right kind of investment would strengthen Burma’s private sector, benefit its citizens and ultimately loosen the military’s control over the economy and the civilian government. The wrong investment would do the opposite, entrenching a new oligarchy and setting back Burma’s development for decades."
Suu Kyi meanwhile has given Senator McCain's proposals a cautious welcome. "I am not against the suspension of sanctions as long as the people of the United States feel that this is the right thing to do at the moment. I do advocate caution, though," she said in a contribution by Skype to a Washington discussion. "I sometimes feel that people are too optimistic about the scene in Burma... You have to remember that the democratisation process is not irreversible." She also complained that some271 political prisoners on the NLD's listhad yet to be released.
- Conflict Risk Network sponsored News Release - Letter to President Obama
- US/Burma: Don't lift sanctions too soon - Human Rights Watch
Press Release by Senator Webb's office - 4 May 2012
Senator Jim Webb (Democrat - Virginia) whose historic trip to Burma in 2009 set the stage for a new direction in U.S. policy toward that country, today called for the Administration “to facilitate reforms in Burma (Myanmar) through the lifting of economic sanctions.” Senator Webb, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, was joined in his letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by subcommittee ranking member James Inhofe (Republican - Oklahoma).
“This letter is the result of years of thought and effort, and I am confident that lifting economic sanctions is the best course of action,” commented Senator Webb. “The President has the power to do that. It’s time for him to act......At this critical moment, it is imperative that our policy toward Burma be forward thinking, providing incentives for further reforms and building the capacity of reformers in the government to push for additional change. We urge the Administration to take action under its own authority, and seize this opportunity to support the Burmese people in their efforts to form an open, democratic government that respects and protects the rights of all.
Derek Tonkin writes: The testimony by OFAC Director Adam Szubin came as a surprise to many who had fondly believed that the US Administration had already done what it could to ease sanctions against Myanmar and was now largely dependent on congressional support to proceed further. It would seem that this is not the case and that most sanctions could now be waived through presidential action. My latest Myanmar Briefing Note No.27 "Myanmar sanctions: The US paddles its own canoe" highlights the extent to which the US is now "up the creek" where sanctions policy against Myanmar is concerned.
In his latest comments Senator John McCain would seem to share my views as he has called for the suspension of all economic sanctons against Myanmar.
US: The debate on sanctions
Canada lifts most sanctions on Myanmar
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade - 24 April 2012
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today announced that Canada will suspend most sanctions against Burma, which were among the toughest in the world.
“Canada is encouraged by the changes that have taken place in Burma, especially in the last year,” Baird said. “Today’s move signals our support for the reforms championed by the country’s president and demanded by the Burmese people.
“There is more work to be done, but Canada stands ready to support Burma in building a free and prosperous society. The easing of these sanctions will help Burma move in that direction and create jobs, hope and opportunity for the Burmese people.”
Departmental Background Note: Prohibitions on imports, exports and investment have for the most part been removed, as have those related to technical data and financial transactions. However, a few prohibitions remain: trade in arms and related material is still forbidden, along with technical and financial assistance related to military activities. An asset freeze and prohibition on transactions also remain in place against designated individuals and entities. The list of designated persons will be reviewed and updated over the coming weeks in light of changes that have taken place in the Burmese power structure since the list was created......
Canada will continue to closely monitor the situation and will play a role in assisting the Burmese people with the transition to democracy. On the other hand, Canada stands ready to re-impose sanctions if progress is reversed and the situation in Burma deteriorates once again.
EU Council Conclusions on Burma/Myanmar
Press Office of the Council of the European Union - 23 April 2012
Extract: "As a means to welcome and encourage the reform process, the Council will suspend restrictive measures imposed on the Government, with the exception of the arms embargo, which it will retain. The Council will monitor closely the situation on the ground, keep its measures under constant review and respond positively to progress on ongoing reforms."
- EU sanctions: Myanmar exiles urge US to seek more reforms - Associated Press
- David Cameron welcomes suspension of Burma sanctions - The Telegraph
- William Hague warning over change to sanctions in Burma - The Independent
- EU to suspend most sanctions - Financial Times
- EU suspends sanctions on Myanmar amid political reform - Associated Press
Reuters - 17 April 2012
The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday relaxed sanctions on Myanmar to permit non-governmental organizations to support certain humanitarian, religious and educational activities in the country.
The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a notice saying that, subject to certain limitations, sanctions would be eased to allow projects to meet basic human needs, democracy building and good governance, education, religious, sport and non-commercial development in the country.
UK cozies up in Myanmar
Asia Times Online 16 April 2012
Francis Wade reports that: "Speaking to Asia Times Online, a British foreign ministry official said that it 'remains UK policy to discourage trade with Burma [Myanmar]. This has not changed.' Quite how that marries with a push to end the ban on investment is unclear. Cameron, an outwardly pro-market conservative, will want to plant an early stake in Myanmar's future in the wake of a series of economic reforms that have sought to attract greater foreign investment, particularly as signs point toward rising competition for an early foothold in the country."
Derek Tonkin writes: In his joint press conference with Suu Kyi on 13 April 2012, David Cameron said: "I'm committed that Britain should do what it can to help not only with political progress, but also development and economic progress too, and he went on to say: "And this sanctions suspension should cover everything apart from the arms embargo. I think this would give the greatest level of certainty and clarity." Less than 30 seconds later however he said: "But this sanction - let me be clear - this covers everything apart from the arms embargo and any other specific measures that Britain itself would have put in place in terms of discouragement. So I think this is a very clear message, but let me be absolutely clear…….."
If I have interpreted David Cameron's "very clear" message correctly, the proposed suspension of sanctions covers everything apart from the arms embargo and apart from any other specific measures which Britain alone has put in place by way of discouragement.
Over the weekend, both Australia and Norway announced that they were now fully encouraging trade and investment and removing all or most sanctions.
The intriguing possibility arises that, whatever the EU Foreign Affairs Council may decide on 23 April, Britain might soon be alone in the Western world in still discouraging trade and investment with Myanmar, and perhaps even tourism as well. The reaction of British commercial, industrial and financial interests is unlikely to be all that supportive. David Cameron has enough problems already at home.
In the circumstances, I would not be surprised if British "discouragement" quietly evaporates after 23 April.
Comment on David Cameron's call for the suspension of sanctions
- Australia recognises reform in Burma - Media Release, Australian Minister for Trade
- Australia eases sanctions on Myanmar - Al Jazeera
- Australia eases Myanmar sanctions - Financial Times
- Norway lifts sanctions against Myanmar - Aftenposten, Norway
- Norway lifts economic sanctions against Myanmar - Agence France-Presse
- Myanmar to be set free from sanctions: Analysts - EU Business
- Cameron made right move in Myanmar - Editorial, Bangkok Post
- King David plays the global statesman - Kirsty Walker, Daily Mail
- Cameron wants sanctions suspended, not lifted - Thomas Fuller, New York Times
- Sanctions helped give Burma a new start - Paul Vallely, The Independent
Financial Times - 13 April 2012
The FT reports that Mr Cameron’s calls for the suspension of sanctions were met with mixed reactions by EU diplomats. One said privately that the UK prime minister was “jumping the gun” by publicising his position ahead of the visit by the EU’s foreign policy chief Lady Ashton on April 28 to open the EU’s new embassy in Yangon. Another senior EU diplomat said Mr Cameron’s statements were “just one side” of the heated discussions taking place in Brussels. “This will all come to a head on April 23, when some sanctions will be lifted, some will be suspended and the arms embargo will be maintained. Of course, it will amount to a major easing, but in what form we can’t say right now.”
Mr Cameron’s clear message on maintaining the EU’s ban on military ties and defence sales is likely to be echoed by the US and other western countries. The concern in Myanmar government circles is that any EU decision to suspend, rather than lift, other curbs could influence the US position.
Derek Tonkin writes: There has been strong EU pressure on the UK in the run up to the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 23 April to behave more sensibly over sanctions. Not only is there an urgent need, some 12 months after the reformist government of President Thein Sein took charge, to respond positively to the changes which have taken place, but there is also growing concern about the extent to which sanctions have caused stagnation in the economy generally and have mainly affected the population.
The view in the UK press on 14 April is that "suspension" is tantamount to the lifting of sanctions, since their reimposition would pose considerable problems. It was important however for David Cameron to secure Suu Kyi's endorsement and "suspension" was an acceptable face-saving formula for them both. There is now pressure on the US and Canada to respond positively to Suu Kyi's revised position on sanctions.
The US has throughout maintained a Defence Attaché in Myanmar. So too has Australia. US Special Envoy Derek Mitchell has made a point of holding discussions during his visits to Myanmar with the Minister of Defence, Major General Hla Min. EU countries withdrew Defence Attachés some years ago, but many question whether this was a sensible decision in view of the resultant loss of intelligence on and contact with the Armed Forces.
No. 10 Downing Street Press Office - 13 April 2012
West must lift sanctions 'without delay' - International Crisis Group
Agence France-Presse - 10 April 2012
Myanmar is unlikely to backtrack on reforms and the West should lift sanctions "without delay" to help the process, the International Crisis Group said in a report just released. "Myanmar has turned away from five decades of authoritarianism and has embarked on a bold process of political, social and economic reform," the ICG said in "Reform in Myanmar: One Year On," released in Jakarta and Brussels. "Those in the West who have long called for such changes must now do all they can to support them. The most important step is to lift the sanctions on Myanmar without delay." Noting the April 23 European Union meeting on whether to renew sanctions, the ICG said "the value of the coercive measures must be reconsidered."
State Department Teleconference - 4 April 2012
The Special Briefing (see pdf version attached) expands on the statement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "Recognizing and Supporting Burma's democratic reforms" made in the Treaty Room of the State Department yesterday. In particular, Hillary Clinton noted that: "We are prepared to take steps toward:
- first, seeking agrément for a fully accredited ambassador in Rangoon in the coming days, followed by a formal announcement of our nominee;
- second, establishing an in-country USAID mission and supporting a normal country program for the United Nations Development Program;
- third, enabling private organizations in the United States to pursue a broad range of nonprofit activities from democracy building to health and education;
- fourth, facilitating travel to the United States for select government officials and parliamentarians; and
- fifth, beginning the process of a targeted easing of our ban on the export of U.S. financial services and investment as part of a broader effort to help accelerate economic modernization and political reform.
Sanctions and prohibitions will stay in place on individuals and institutions that remain on the wrong side of these historic reform efforts."
"European diplomacy" writes Dr Sophie Boisseau du Rocher in a recent article"carries a heavy past with its diplomatic snubs and colonial resentments.....Blame and condemnation, sanctions and pressure on multinational corporations to leave the country have had minimal effect in delivering change and, conversely, have produced irritation." The issue now is how and whether the EU can catch up with the rest of the world and regain its lost influence.
Network Myanmar Press Release - 4 April 2012
Derek Tonkin, Chairman of Network Myanmar, comments: "While Myanmar was under direct military rule, there was little or no interest in the human rights implications of Western sanctions policies. But now that a Government is in power which has set poverty eradication, rural development and social welfare as important priorities, there can be no excuse for Western Governments seeking to compel further reform through the use of sanctions targeting the population. These sanctions should not be part of the Western arsenal of restrictive measures." Read full press release.....
Celebrate Aung San Suu Kyi's victory - ease sanctions on Myanmar
CNN - 2 April 2012
Suzanne DiMaggio, vice president of global policy programs at the Asia Society, and Priscilla Clapp, a retired minister-counselor in the U.S. Foreign Service and former Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Burma, argue that the international community should take this moment to encourage Myanmar's moves toward liberalization. For the United States, the time has come to seriously address its myriad financial sanctions on Myanmar to ensure that they are not working at cross-purposes with reform efforts.
The draconian application of U.S. financial sanctions is having a serious negative impact on legitimate economic actors in Myanmar who are struggling to institute positive changes. They are also impeding Americans who are working to assist in the reforms. Read more.....
Foreign Policy - 30 March 2012
Tom Malinowski, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch, notes that "experts debate whether the role of sanctions was successful in opening up Burma. But with the up-coming by-elections and the release of political prisoners, the greater challenge may be how to lift them." Read more.....
Derek Tonkin writes: A thoughtful and perceptive analysis of the rationale behind US sanctions policy, though I find it hard to accept the argument that because sanctions drove Myanmar into the arms of the Chinese, this turned out to be an argument for sanctions, since this was not a place where Myanmar's nationalistic leaders wanted to be for long. This was never a US policy tactic or strategy. No advocate of sanctions advanced this notion either, to my knowledge.
Analysis: West waits on Myanmar vote to start sanctions scale back
Reuters - 27 March 2012
Martin Petty writes: Western countries desperately want Myanmar's by-elections on Sunday to go smoothly - and give opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi a seat in parliament - so they can start to lift sanctions and let their companies invest in the once-isolated state.Myanmar's civilian rulers have astonished with a reform drive since taking office a year ago, freeing hundreds of political prisoners jailed by the former junta, holding peace talks with ethnic militias and opening up the economy.
Western companies are lining up to get into the country, sandwiched between China and India and offering huge potential in energy, financial services, telecoms and tourism. Diplomats say some U.S. restrictions such as visa bans and asset freezes could be lifted quickly if the election is credible, and the European Union may end sanctions that ban investment in timber and the mining of gemstones and metals.
But the ballot needs the thumbs-up from the 66-year-old Suu Kyi, who is contesting one of 45 parliamentary seats after two decades in the political wilderness, much of it under house arrest. Read more.....
Recent remarks in the House of Commons on Burma/Myanmar
19 March 2012 - Statement by Foreign Secretary William Hague on the informal ("Gymnich") meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Copenhagen 9-10 March 2012
took the view that EU sanctions should target regime behaviour, not innocent civilians; should be targeted and reversible; and should not be used in isolation from other measures. Ministers further noted that they were more effective when co-ordinated with the UN and other key actors; and when their purpose was better communicated.
"Ministers agreed that sanctions were just one element of the EU toolkit. Positive incentives - market access; enlargement; development spend - could also influence third countries. A sophisticated approach combining positive and negative levers was needed, depending on circumstance."
The Art of Self-Deception: The EU and Sanctions
Myanmar Briefing Note No. 22 - 23 March 2012
Derek Tonkin examines the current debate on whether Western economic and financial sanctions might be influencing Myanmar towards political reform, doubts that so-called "smart" sanctions have had any influence at all, points out that many others are poorly targeted though there are none which might effectively be applied, and concludes that what is needed is more honest analysis and less politically correct pretence.
Progress Report of the Special Rapporteur
Human Rights Council - 7 March 2012
Tomás Ojea Quintana reports that the recent wave of reforms has had a positive impact on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The upcoming by-elections on 1 April 2012 will be a key test of how far the Government has progressed in its reform process. There is, however, a risk of backtracking on the progress achieved to date. At this crucial moment in the country’shistory, remaining human rights concerns and challenges should be addressed, and justice and accountability measures, as well as measures to ensure access to the truth, should be taken.
Quintana calls for review of Myanmar sanctions
The China Post (Taiwan) - 15 March 2012
The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights has called for a review of sanctions by some Western states against Myanmar as the Southeast Asian state has embarked on a series of political reforms ahead of April by-elections. “I am not saying that they must be lifted, but they must be analyzed in detail,” said Tomas Ojea Quintana. This is “because they are a human rights issue,” added Quintana during a press conference after presenting his report on the situation in Myanmar to the U.N. Human Rights Council. “I really believe that sanctions have to do with human rights, in different areas, particularly in economic, social and cultural rights. Because of that, we have the responsibility to address it publicly, openly, not just as a carrot” for reforms.
Derek Tonkin writes: The connection between human rights and sanctions has long been recognised, but has generally been swept under the carpet by Western Governments when sanctions are so often applied on a wave of emotion at a moment of outrage, but without proper analysis. See for example the working paper presented by Baron Marc Bossuyt, Professor Emeritus of International Law at the Universirty of Antwerp, to the Human Rights Commission in June 2000. See also the Network Myanmar News Release of 28 March 2011: "EU Common Policy on Burma/Myanmar: A time for serious review". President of East Timor José Ramos-Horta has frequently railed aginst the sanctions imposed against Myanmar because of the suffering which can be caused to the people.
- UN Envoy Vijay Nambiar uges lifting of sanctions - Voice of America
- Opinion: West must not lift Burma sanctions too soon - Kyi May Kaung
Stanley A Weiss: The Huffington Post - 7 March 2012
The Founder and Chairman of Business Executives for National Security, Stanley Weiss, argues that it is important to see past Aung San Suu Kyi as a symbol of moral courage to evaluate the substance of her positions - and by extension, U.S. policy - during the past two decades. Like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela before her, there are hard lessons that must be faced.
Second, denying humanitarian aid prolonged the suffering of ethnic minorities. Suu Kyi rarely mentioned the plight of ethnic minoritiesthe past 20 years, but their anguish was multiplied by a near-complete absence of aid dollars......
Third, denying visas to Myanmar students denied them the ability to see democracy in action......
Fourth, isolating Myanmar opened the U.S. to charges of bullying. I hear it constantly here in Asia - the U.S. sanctions countries like Myanmar and Cuba, but fails to take the same steps with countries like China, Russia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, who have equally appalling human rights records.....
If there is one final lesson, it is the one we've known all along: the U.S. should never allow a single person in a foreign country to drive America's security policy, no matter how revered that person may be.
Derek Tonkin writes: The criticism of economic sanctions against Myanmar (Joseph Stiglitz and Louise Arbour) is becoming increasingly vocal and specific. In the case of the US, Myanmar has faced virtual econmic warfare this century, all to no avail because sanctions failed to stop the 2003 Road Map to Democracy. This is now at its final stage which is: "Building a modern, developed and democratic nation.....". The West may not like the political infrastructure which has been created. but the Burmese people will remedy that in their own good time. Meanwhile, the West should act boldly to support the reforms now taking place in Myanmar.
of its 60 million people live on a dollar a day.
Stiglitz sees progress on Myanmar currency regime
The Wall Street Journal - 16 February 2012
In meetings with officials, economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz told WSJ: "They made it very clear that they are headed for foreign-exchange-rate unification," and it appeared the issue was "being dealt with fairly quickly." There was already evidence that the country's currency was overvalued, even at the unofficial rate, echoing complaints made by Myanmar exporters over the past year who have said a flood of investment related to natural resources has helped push the kyat higher. Mr. Stiglitz said he felt confident Myanmar's government was serious about other reforms, as well.
He also indicated he supports the lifting of sanctions, which he says "would help" by bringing in more companies "with good corporate responsibility rules," which could help boost economic growth while minimizing problems associated with environmental degradation and other issues linked to underregulated development.
Louise Arbour, New York Times - 5 March 2012
The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and since July 2009 President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, Louise Arbour argues that skepticism and undue prudence towards Myanmar will only slow down the reform process and risk becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Rather, it is time for encouragement and support to achieve the mutual goal of opening up Myanmar and improving the plight of its mostly impoverished people. This will require subtlety in policy making by Western governments, and a political effort commensurate to the one being made by the Burmese authorities themselves.
First, finding new reasons to keep restrictions in place is the wrong approach. Using sanctions to force a solution to the outstanding ethnic conflict involving the Kachin armed group is a clumsy tactic that puts pressure only on the government and encourages the other side to fight on for a better deal.
Secondly, blanket prohibitions on trade, financial transactions, or development aid should no longer be used to address single-issue bilateral agendas such as people smuggling.
Finally, exclusively taking the lead from the National League for Democracy’s Aung San Suu Kyi on when to end sanctions and restrictions will no longer be appropriate once she takes up a new role as the leader of a minority party in Parliament. Read more.....
The Sanctions Debate
- Burmese businessmen tell Surin sanctions hurt growth - Mizzima
- Vijay Nambiar urges lifting of Burma sanctions - Voice of America
- 2011 report on TPVA: Burma - US State Department
- Sanktionen gegen Myanmar aufheben - Financial Times (Germany)
- Will Myanmar's reforms prompt lifting of US sanctions? - Murray Hiebert, CSIS
- US Sanctions on Burma - Michael E Martin, Congressional Research Service
Reuters - 13 February 2012
"There is concern (on the government side) that they've made reforms, they released political prisoners, they opened up, but the sanctions are still in place," European Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told reporters."Now it's very clear that the watershed is elections in April. If it goes as expected and is free and fair, then everyone would expect the easing of sanctions to continue."
"The restrictive measures are definitely affecting their growth ..... The restrictive measures are painful for them because they see their potential for foreign investment," Piebalgs said of the sanctions. "I had to explain that this takes time. Suspending some measures, it needs consensus from 27 countries and that's not such an easy thing to achieve in the EU."
Derek Tonkin comments: Most EU members are now pressing for common sense on sanctions as they are seen to be so counterproductive. Reasonably free and fair by-elections on 1 April should provide the opportunity to cut loose this millstone around EU necks, but the UK and others are still likely to be influenced by Suu Kyi's apparent unwillingness to surrender the sanctions card. In the US, legal and congressional procedures could delay a resolution of the sanctions issue until after the November presidential election.
The Myanmar Times - 30 January - 5 February 2012
Aung Tun, a research fellow with the policy think-tank Myanmar Egress, comments: "I don’t want to say that the sanctions policy has failed or even been counterproductive; instead I would say it didn’t work out as intended. For instance, while business tycoons targeted by sanctions - along with their sons, daughters and other relatives - have enjoyed access to quality education and healthcare abroad, and even the chance to shop in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, the majority of the population has seen almost every service provided by the government deteriorate. They have been largely unaffected by the sanctions, while we have suffered not only because of sanctions but also the mismanagement that prompted the sanctions to be put in place. This has exacerbated inequality in our society. It seems almost as if the carrot has been applied to the cronies and the stick to the poor."
Derek Tonkin writes: I agree. This explains why those who apply sanctions against Myanmar have never dared issue an independent public assessment of their effectiveness.
Latest News and Comment
Ottawa Citizen - 18 November 2011
Damien McElroy of the Daily Telegraph reports that Miss Suu Kyi has been a long time supporter of Western sanctions against the ruling military junta, but on Thursday she softened her stance. "We have not been passive about sanctions when we thought we should have them," she said. "This is not a time to be passive but to be slightly neutral while we wait to see."
Recent reforms have put pressure on the Western states that supported Miss Suu Kyi's struggle against the junta, who shifted the onus back to her allies on Thursday, saying: "With regard to sanctions there are conditions that were imposed by the countries concerned. When those conditions are met I don't think anyone will have to call for sanctions to go."
House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee - 19 October 2011
Note by Network Myanmar: The European Scrutiny Committee scrutinises draft EU legislation- in this case Council Decision 2011/239 of 12 April 2011 - on behalf of the House of Commons and assesses which proposals are of particular political or legal importance. It draws these proposals to the attention of the House through weekly Committee Reports and by recommending some draft legislation for debate.
Extracts from the report on 'Documents considered':
In his Explanatory Memorandum dated 11 April 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) said "that the Coalition Government's position was that there should be no easing of EU restrictive measures in the absence of tangible progress in Burma. Negotiations in the EU had been tough. A number of Member States were minded to see the political developments in Burma as progress and pressed for a relaxation of restrictive measures. But the Government had secured a technical rollover of the Council Decision for a further 12 months, with the existing framework of sanctions protected and maintained. .......The Government had remained in close contact with Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as with other democratic groups, during the EU negotiations and had agreed the steps above because they are in line with Aung San Suu Kyi's wishes to promote dialogue with the government and to encourage a move towards more democratic institutions."
The Minister wrote on 4 August 2011 to update the Committee on changes to the annexes of Council Decision 2011/239. "He noted that agreement to the roll-over of sanctions on Burma in April included a technical review of the annexes in order to ensure they remained accurate and relevant; this review had now been completed by the EU Missions in Rangoon (in which the UK mission in Rangoon had played a prominent role) and the recommendations agreed in the EU.
Mr Lidington added in an Explanatory Memorandum dated 7 October 2011: "Our Ambassador to Rangoon remains in close contact with Aung San Suu Kyi and most recently met her on 27 September. She hopes to have a clearer view within the next month of whether the Burmese authorities will follow through on their pledges to announce and implement substantive reform. The Government will continue to engage closely with Aung San Suu Kyi and will be ready to issue a coordinated response to either progress or the breakdown of talks."
Derek Tonkin writes: The extent to which UK and by extension EU policy on Myanmar/Burma has been made dependent on the views and wishes of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should cause unease. There are other Opposition voices in Myanmar, among both political parties and local NGOs, which are critical of what is seen as her negative approach to development aid, her ambivalent attitude on even Technical Assistance from International Financial Institutions and her lack of support for labour-intensive industries in the non-crony private sector, like garments, textiles and seafood which have been seriously affected by sanctions.
[See also Documents considered by the European Scrutiny Committee on 27 April 2011]
Asia Pacific Bulletin - 13 October 2011
Renaud Egreteau examines the problems in implementing sanctions against Myanmar's jade and gem exports under the 2008 JADE Act and suggests that "an independent transnational regulation body "as envisaged in the Act "to trace Burmese gemstones, starting with rubies.....would be a constructive start."
Derek Tonkin comments: In September 2009 the US Government Accountability Office drew attention to the serious technical problems in implementing aspects of the JADE Act. It is unlikely that there would be any international support for the body suggested by Mr Egreteau, not least because of the cost of setting up and servicing such a technical organsation, and the fact that Burmese rubies are exported in rough state and all the processing through heat treatment, which adds 90% of the value to the rough stone, is done outside Myanmar in countries which would have no interest in being associated with such a project. In short, not a practical option.
Myanmar Briefing Note No.5 - 25 September 2011
Derek Tonkin highlights the need for an agreed assessment of sanctions applied against Myanmar in order to eliminate those which are not well targeted. This would be consistent with US Special Representative Derek Mitchell's mandate to coordinate sanctions policy and might be arranged through the UN Secretary-General's "Group of Friends" on Myanmar, with the support of Suu Kyi whose party, the National League for Democracy, asked for an assessment in its 11 February statement on sanctions.
Burma Independence Advocates (London) - August 2011
A preliminary assessment of political and humanitarian conditions under sanctions.
Note by Network Myanmar: A comprehensive and well-structured study on the impact and effectiveness of sanctions. It is unfortunate, as the authors say, that governments seem unwilling to meet the request in February 2011 by the National League for Democracy for "an analysis by a team of widely respected professionals on the effects of sanctions".
How sanctions made Burma's richest man
Financial Times - 12 August 2011
The sanctions that Mr Tay Za says have helped to enrich him are now the focus of a bitter international debate.......Sitting on a sofa upholstered in pale crocodile skin, he says that sanctions have had a more damaging effect on the people of Burma, one of the poorest countries in Asia. “The main issue is sanctions: for the basic people, for development it is sanctions." This argument may be self-interested but it is also increasingly mainstream. “Sanctions have severely retarded the development of a broad professional and business class, the very class that will be vital for a successful democratic transition,” says Thant Myint-U, author and Burma analyst.
Derek Tonkin notes: Sanctions have also deprived the Burmese people of some US$ 2 billion annually in Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), as Myanmar receives per capita only one-tenth of ODA enjoyed by fellow ASEAN members Laos and Cambodia. The West, though, is trapped up to its neck in the swamp of the sanctions it has imposed and cannot, indeed dare not escape without upsetting Suu Kyi and losing face.
David Steinberg on: "The Folly of more Burma Sanctions"
The Diplomat Blog - 2 August 2011
If US sanctions against the military government in Burma, the goal of which were regime change, haven’t worked for a decade and a half, by what logic would one suppose that additional sanctions would have a more positive effect? The United States has nominated a special ambassadorial envoy to Burma, and his approval is likely in the Senate. His position calls for coordination of sanctions policies and dialogue with the Burmese. Do the organizations advocating more sanctions really believe that this will positively affect his efficacy in dealing with Burmese officials? It’s simply self-defeating to advocate policies that effectively undercut the possibility of these reforms continuing, something which would be in the interests of both the United States and the people of that sorry land.
- Distilled from "The Folly of Consistency" at Pacific Forum CSIS Honolulu
- David Mathieson of Human Rights Watch disagrees - "A Fool's Paradise"
US Embassy Bangkok cable about Thai loss of the Burmese ruby trade
Wikileaks 15 June 2011 - US Bangkok Embassy cable of 20 March 2009
"Tens of thousands of Thai artisans and traders have lost employment in what used to be their premier craft: the cutting and polishing of world-class Burmese rubies. The double whammy of the U.S. JADE Act and the global economic recession has thrown the industry into disarray........Long accustomed to warm and profitable relationships with U.S. and European buyers, Thailand's gem dealers stubbornly cling to the belief that if the U.S. government truly understood that, from their view, the JADE Act's impact on the Burmese regime is minimal while its impact on them is huge, surely we would adjust the law."
ABC News Foreign Correspondent - 'The Lady on the Lake' 19 July 2011
ABC News - 19 July 2011
According to Suu Ky in this interview (fast forward to 7' 50"): "I think people have to ask why sanctions were instituted in the first place. Sanctions are not really an economic weapon. Their aim is not something economic. Sanctions were instituted for political reasons. And then of course a lot of people shout and scream about the fact that sanctions are making life tough for the people of Burma, but this is not the case at all."
Note by Network Myanmar: Myanmar receives about one-tenth of the per capita international development assistance provided to Laos and Cambodia. This deliberate blocking deprives the population of some US$ 2 billion in aid annually. It is far and away the main Western sanction against the country.
Western sanctions aren't working
New Matilda - 12 July 2011
Kyaw Kyaw, a freelance writer from Myanmar, analyses the increasing irrelevance of Western influence in Myanmar and the extent to which Western sanctions have been rendered largely ineffective, and are now little more than symbolic. In the context of the recent visit by Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, the author sees "an opportunity for Australia to quietly coerce the Burmese Government towards political and economic reform."
See also Kyaw Kyaw's article "What can The Lady do?" of 15 February 2011 in which he noted that the statement the previous week by the National League for Democracy on economic sanctions "has proved equally unpopular here, and showed that the 'voices of the people' are still struggling to get through to the party’s leadership." Kyaw Kyaw quotes from a US Embassy Rangoon cable of 14 July 2008 (paragraphs 6 - 9) to illustrate the decline of the NLD's status within Myanmar.
The costs, achievements and collateral effects of Australia's financial sanctions
Trevor Wilson: Journal of Human Rights, Media and Society in Asia and the Pacific
It's time to fine tune sanctions on Burma - Markus Loening
Financial Times - 20 June 2010
Germany's Commissioner for Human Rights Policy asks: "Can EU sanctions really be meant to enrich profiteers and featherbed generals, to propel women into brothels, to boost China’s already considerable strategic reach in the region? I don’t think so.
"We have a few months to get the EU line on Burma right: that is, oriented towards opening up the political system, accelerating the process of modernisation, providing greater economic and political choices for the Burmese. Sanctions should be a sensitive, political instrument not a caveman’s club.
"We have reached one of those rare moments when European foreign policy can make a difference. This is the time for intelligent dialogue with all groups in Burmese society."
Derek Tonkin comments: Unfortunately British policy is based on an uncritical acceptance of Suu Kyi's support for continuing sanctions and on subservience to a vociferous activist lobby. This makes any enlightened fine tuning of EU policy very difficult for the UK even to contemplate.
East Asia Forum June 2011 - David Steinberg: "Disparate Sanctions"
Sanctions are much less effective than we're led to believe
Letter in the Financial Times - 13 June 2011
Counterproductive sanctions on Burma should be lifted
Mizzima - 26 May 2011
Bert Morsbach, who is engaged in viniculture in Myanmar, sets out persuasively the arguments why sanctions have been and remain so counterproductive.
Impact of Sanctions - North Korea, Burma/Myanmar, Iran, Zimbabwe
DG for External Policies, European Parliament - May 2011
The case study on sanctions against Burma/Myanmar concludes that their failure can be ascribed to several reasons. Firstly, the sanctions regime, despite its comprehensiveness, remains unilateral - mainly North American and European - and does not cover Burma/Myanmar's key resource: the energy extraction industry.....Secondly, the sanctions were originally put in place in order to provide a bargaining chip to the democratic opposition, in the hope that it could persuade the ruling junta to engage with the NLD......
The formulation and management of the sanctions has consistently followed the guidance of NLD’s Aung San Suu Kyi (Steinberg 2010), which has to this date called for the permanence of sanctions..... In addition, the Burmese sanctions have become a powerful domestic issue in both the US and the UK, which makes it difficult for their respective administrations to modify the regime in the absence of the junta’s full compliance with maximalist demands.
EU Sanctions on Burma: Is the Tide turning?
Eurasia Review - 9 May 2011
Tanvi Pate, a UK-educated research analyst, presents a perceptive review of where we stand on EU sanctions against Myanmar and concludes that: "Ultimately with passage of time, the futility of sanctions regime has created cracks within the EU and the issue is once again on the fore..... This year and the next might bring forth some crucial developments in the EU sanctions policy and it is no longer fanciful to imagine that the tide might actually turn."
The ad hoc Group of Democratic Party Friends (GDPF), an alliance of 10 Burmese political parties and the All Mon Region Democratic Party, has asked the European Union to renew Burma’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status. Dr. Than Nyein, chairman of the National Democratic Force party, is one of 11 party leaders who are calling for the EU to renew Burma's status as a developing country that should receive lower tariffs. Photo: MizzimaA letter sent to the EU on Thursday said that if GSP status is renewed, small and medium-sized businesses throughout the country would have more economic opportunities.
The Future (Yangon) - 22 April 2011
Billionaire entrepreneur Tay Za downplays Western sanctions and stresses the role of Myanmar’s connections with Asian countries. ‘We are making use of more and more Asian products.' Western sanctions on the gems business and on the hotel and tourist industries show an ‘immoral’ attitude on the part of the US and European countries towards the people.
Jim Della-Giocoma of the International Crisis Group argues that sanctions don't work. The time is long overdue to change these failed policies and try a new way to achieve the same goals.
Voice of America - 18 April 2011
Experts offer different views on sanctions and engagement, but all agree that diplomacy is needed.
Highlights - 1 April 2011
Sanctions undermine AIDS prevention - Radio Australia
EU welcomes Myanmar in business summit - The Jakarta Post
US Senators urge tougher Myanmar sanctions - Agence France-Presse
Myanmar sanctions: debate intensifies - RSIS Singapore Commentary
Pressure is building on the NLD. Two weeks ago the influential International Crisis Group issued a damning report against sanctions. European ambassadors have been listening to all opposition views in Yangon as they conduct their annual review of the issue. Much will depend, as ever, on Ms Suu Kyi. The ambassadors will not defy her wishes if she demands that sanctions remain. But she has become almost Delphic on the subject.
EU 'Common Policy' on Burma/Myanmar: A time for serious review
Network Myanmar News Release - 28 March 2011
The annual review of the EU's 'Common Policy' on Burma/Myanmar is due next month by the Foreign Affairs Council when sanctions will come up for renewal. Network Myanmar argues that a definitive and publicly available assessment of sanctions is already long overdue.
Pyidaungsu Hluttaw debates sanctions
The New Light of Myanmar - 26 March 2011
The Assembly of the Union debates the Motion that: "This Hluttaw opposes the economic sanctions imposed againt Myanmar", which was passed by 625 votes in favour, four votes against and five abstentions.
UK pressing for EU Sanctions to be rolled over in April 2011
Questions asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead:
- To ask Her Majesty's Government how much money has been frozen in (a) the United Kingdom, and (b) the European Union, as a result of European Union sanctions on Burma.
- To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to persuade European Union member states to implement a ban on European Union companies investing in Burma.
Note by Network Myanmar: In the light of current public controversy about the effectiveness of sanctions, it is unlikely that at this early stage of the new administration in Nay Pyi Taw any policy change on sanctions by the EU would be made. There is however pressure within the EU for sanctions to be re-examined in an attempt to ascertain to what extent the Burmese population generally might be affected and to modify sanctions appropriately. The fact that the UK is now the largest bilateral aid donor and that the need for development as well as humanitarian aid is now widely accepted may help to achieve a more rational policy.
Network Myanmar - 13 March 2011
An alliance of ten democratic political parties in Myanmar which won seats in the November 2010 elections has sent an Open Letter to the European Union seeking their support and understanding in lifting economic sanctions against Myanmar at the annual review of EU Common Policy due shortly. The alliance expresses particular concern about sanctions and restrictive policies of a generalised nature which affect the population in labour-intensive industries like garments and seafood, which generally prohibit trade in certain products and commodities and which broadly discourage tourism, trade and investment, to the detriment of the well-being of the population at large.
The Annual Follies on Burma/Myanmar - Derek Tonkin
EU diplomats talk sanctions with the Opposition - Agence France-Presse
Parties lobby for an end to EU sanctions - DvB 14 March 2011
We see sanctions as a political weapon - Win Tin 21 March 2011
International Crisis Group - 7 March 2011
As Myanmar enters a new political phase and General Than Shwe hands over power to the next generation of leaders, there is a critical window of opportunity to encourage greater openness and reform. Unfortunately, this opportunity is likely to be squandered. A small number of influential countries place a higher priority on appearing “tough” on the Myanmar issue, rather than on being effective - satisfying unrepresentative domestic lobby groups at the expense of developing sound policies.
Improved policies must start with the recognition that sanctions have counterproductive effects, some more obvious than others. As a first step, restrictions on development assistance should be lifted, and levels of aid dramatically increased, in line with donor standards on accountability and fiduciary responsibility. Restrictions on technical assistance from international financial institutions should be removed. These institutions should actively engage on the full range of pressing concerns such as poverty alleviation, social and economic policy reform and capacity building. Mandate restrictions on UNDP and other UN agencies should be lifted. Broad-based economic sanctions - particularly the U.S. import ban, the EU’s sectoral sanctions and the denial of GSP - should be immediately lifted.ICG Press Release - 7 March 2011
- Experts differ on sanctions as curse or cure - Deutsche Welle
- Human Rights in Burma - more or less sanctions?- European Parliament
- Why Suu Kyi wants to keep sanctions - Simon Montlake
- Sanctions aren't working in Myanmar - Andrew Cohen
- Time to drop Burma sanctions - Marie Lall
- Lift sanctions on Myanmar - Tan Sri Razali Ismail
Reuters - 20 February 2011
- Economic sanctions only a tactic of colonialists - Kyaw Myint Naing
- National reconsolidation only though non-violence - Nga Min Swe
- High time to take strides without economic sanctions - Maung Hmat
Myanmar: Where the generals play and the people pay
Globe and Mail (Canada) - 18 February 2011
A devastating indictment of Western sanctions policies in this seven page article, which also exposes the pointlessness of Canadian claims to have imposed the toughest sanctions in the world. Here are some extracts:
Many aid workers complain that Canada has chosen the cheap high ground.
“Except for the generous assistance after Cyclone Nargis [in 2008]… the only things the Canadian government has done for Myanmar are granting Aung San Suu Kyi honorary citizenship and imposing the toughest sanctions in the world. Neither of which costs the taxpayers of Canada a single dime or does anything for the people of Myanmar,” says Andrew Kirkwood, a Canadian who heads Save the Children Myanmar.
“No one who understands transaction costs would support sanctions,” says Nay Win Maung, director of Myanmar Egress, an independent civil-society organization based in Rangoon. “Sanctions affect the grassroots. It's an empirical reality.”
Unlike Myanmar, South Africa didn't have neighbours such as China, Thailand, Singapore and India, which have flouted the sanctions almost since the beginning.
Late last month, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) made its position even plainer, calling for sanctions to be lifted “to ensure that economic development in Myanmar can take place.”
Thanks to these neighbours, Myanmar's elites aren't suffering. The shelves at CityMart, a high-end chain of supermarkets with locations around Rangoon, are stocked with French and Australian wines, Chinese snacks, L'Oréal makeup, Gillette razors and Alpo dog food.
But few ordinary Myanmarese have ever walked the store's air-conditioned aisles.
“Look at what's in the shops: If you have the money, it's there,” says a Western businesswoman who asks not to be named. She says Western investment would actually improve the human-rights situation by introducing practices such as environmental-impact assessments and labour standards that firms from China and ASEAN aren't known for.
Europe's Burma Sanctions Dilemma
Friends of Europe - 16 February 2011
Ms Shada Islam highlights the political dilemma facing Europe who are due to make their annual reappraisal of sanctions policy against Myanmar on 30 April 2011. The writer notes that internal valuations of the effectiveness have been made by the EU but never made public. They are said to paint a disastrous picture of the impact of Western economic sanctions as counterproductive on the political level and as regards impact on the people.
Myanmar Times - 14-20 February 2011
Politicians and businessmen in Myanmar tell The Myanmar Times of the ways in which sanctions have had both a direct and indirect impact on their livelihoods and those of ordinary people, not least in rural areas.
Four Articles on the NLD and Sanctions by Yan Gyi Aung
New Light of Myanmar - 13-16 February 2011
We do not wholly agree with the New Light of Myanmar assessment of the authorship. Suu Kyi's style tends to be Olympian, refined, imperious. Some of the formulations are too racy and jargonistic for Suu Kyi to have drafted herself. On the other hand, the eight-point concluding paragraph is vintage Suu Kyi. A composite product.
The four articles point to the differences of approach between the National League for Democracy and the the author of the four articles, which reflect the regime's position. In essence, you can draw a distinction between statutory sanctions imposed by the West which are designed to target the regime and its supporters, but unfortunately have wider repercussions in many cases; and non-statutory sanctions, which primarily include restrictions on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) - including humanitarian and emergency relief - and on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Sanctions-induced restrictions on ODA and the official discouragement of FDI across the board mainly have repercussions on the population at large.
Reuters -12 February 2011
Suu Kyi, asked by Reuters at a party function today to elaborate, said sanctions had to be discussed. "Whether or not to lift the sanctions is something to be decided after discussions," she said. "At the present situation, I don't see any reason to lift the sanctions." She did not elaborate on who should discuss the issue.
Note by Network Myanmar: In their 8 February review of sanctions, the NLD suggested that "a study and anlaysis by a team of widely-respected professionals on the effects of sanctions would be beneficial" to discussions with Western powers.
Associated Press - 8 February 2011
Myanmar's main opposition movement Tuesday called for talks with the United States, European Union, Australia and Canada on how to modify economic sanctions against the country in order to encourage democracy and human rights. A four-page statement in English issued today [Burmese version at this link] said that sanctions hurt the authoritarian regime, but not the ordinary people. A similar report appears in today's Wall Street Journal.
Note by Network Myanmar: This is essentially a political statement rather than a technical analysis. The real issue is whether over the last 20 years sanctions have had any measurable effect in inducing political reform. The answer, alas, is that they have only made matters worse. In the circumstances, more of the same medicine seems unlikely to have any positive effect.
NDF announcement on sanctions
NDF Press Release - 5 February 2011
The National Democratic Force explains its position on sanctions and highlights the extent to which they have affected the prosperity of the people. Burmese original at this link.
Note by Network Myanmar: The NDF was set up by a group of NLD members unhappy with the NLD decision not to contest the February 2010 elections. They now have 8 seats in the Lower House, 4 in the Upper House and 4 in State/Region Assemblies.
Suu Kyi says sanctions should remain
Financial Times - 28 January 2011
David Pilling reports that Suu Kyi has rebuffed calls by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to lift international sanctions, saying neither recent elections nor her release from house arrest signalled fundamental political change. Ms Suu Kyi, who was released from seven years’ detention in November, has ordered her National League for Democracy to conduct a review of sanctions. Studies, including one from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), showed little evidence that sanctions hurt ordinary Burmese, she said. “The great majority of Burmese, who are working in agriculture, are not affected at all,” she said, blaming the dire standard of living of most Burmese on “crony capitalism” and the economic ineptitude of the junta that has ruled the country since 1962.
Note by Network Myanmar: It is difficult to reconcile her call to the Davos World Economic Forum for cautious, prudent and responsible investment with her continuing support for sanctions which include comprehensive investment sanctions by the US and restricted investment sanctions by the EU against certain individuals and also against certain sectors of the economy.
Aung Naing Oo - 25 January 2011
The writer argues that economic sanctions are impeding the Western world in its search for a solution to Myanmar's problems. It is not only that they simply have not worked. Sanctions need to be removed so that a possible avenue to national reconciliation may be opened.
Note by Network Myanmar: The task facing groups like Network Myanmar is how best to save Western Governments from the self-evident folly of their policies. Sanctions hang like a millstone round their necks and they are caught in a vortex of their own making. This impels them against their better judgement to take actions which only consolidate military power in Myanmar. Western Governments are fully aware of this, but domestic political imperatives mean that they dare not lose "face".
Pressure grows for an end to Myanmar sanctions
Agence France-Presse - 23 January 2011
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has reportedly said that the European Union was "following the situation in Myanmar very closely...(but) wants to see what the government will do," notably in terms of human rights. The views of Suu Kyi are however likely to continue to influence US and EU actions.
Note by Network Myanmar: It is apparent that the debate on sanctions is now centering on Suu Kyi. Her views on sanctions are not necessarily, or indeed at all reflective of popular thinking, but are held to be so in Western government circles, as a matter of political correctness.
NLD favours keeping targeted sanctions in place
The Irrawaddy - 17 January 2011
The National League for Democracy (NLD) has said it would continue to support targeted sanctions against the country's ruling regime while the party is reviewing other trade sanctions. “We have consistently supported the targeted sanctions against the regime leadership and its cronies, and we will continue to do so. But as we have said, we will review trade sanctions to find out if they are hurting the people,” said Win Tin, a senior NLD leader. His comment followed calls by the foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations and also by an alliance of five ethnic political parties in Burma for an end to Western economic sanctions against Burma. “Such calls are dishonest and those who made them are merely toeing the line of the military regime,” said Win Tin, adding that the sanctions have hurt the junta and its cronies and helped the opposition in its struggle for democracy.
Note by Network Myanmar: Win Tin does not day in what ways sanctions have helped the opposition. The NLD is on the point of being disbanded.
NDF supports lifting of all non-targeted sanctions
Mizzima - 20 January 2011
The National Democratic Force (NDF) party says that all non-targeted economic sanctions on trade and investment should be lifted by the international community because they harm the livelihood of ordinary Burmese.Three types of sanctions are found in Burma’, NDF leader Khin Maung Swe said. ‘They are targeted sanctions, trade embargos and investment sanctions. Targeted sanctions are the freezing of assets owned by a targeted individual or organisation. However, trade embargos and investment sanctions affect average people’. The last two sanction categories in reality hinder the development of human rights and democratic change in Burma, he said, because they hamper and delay social and civic growth in the country. ‘We cannot say they do not affect the common people. When trade embargos were imposed on Burma, the garment and textile industry were seriously affected, and it had a direct impact on the economy of our country. Non-targeted sanctions are one of the reasons for our poor economic growth, and they do not take into consideration the negative impact on ordinary people’, he said.
Another political party, the Democratic Party (Myanmar), led by veteran politician Thu Wei, advocates the end to all categories of economic sanctions.The lifting of targeted sanctions against military leaders and their business associates could increase the chances that all political prisoners would be released, Thu Wei said. ‘I think it would be better if all these sanctions were lifted’, he said, adding that this month he sent letters of appeal to various embassies in Rangoon.
Note by Network Myanmar: Defining sanctions is crucial to any analysis. If the Western moratorium on development aid through the IMF, ADB and World Bank is included, then less than 10% of Western sanctions applied are in fact "targeted". All other sanctions are generalised, that is, not specifically targeted. See Network Myanmar briefing presented to Suu Kyi. The NDF leadership is mainly composed of former senior officials of the National League for Democracy.
Ethnic MPs urge lifting of sanctions
Agencies - 18 January 2011
International sanctions against Burma have hindered economic development in ethnic areas and should be removed, according to several ethnic political parties. A total of 20 lawmakers-elect from the Shan National Democratic Party (SNDP), the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP), the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), the Chin National Party (CNP) and Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party supported the lifting of sanctions at a joint meeting on January 15. The parties urged the international community to lift economic sanctions as a way to promote economic growth. As expected, Win Tin, enfant terrible of the defunct NLD, does not agree: DVB - Irrawaddy.A translation of the text of the statement is at this link.
"When Burma becomes a democratic society, it is not the duty of the international community to set up a committee to manage the conflict, like in the past. We have to be confident that Burma can resolve its problems by itself," said Mr Kasit at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, which ends today.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who is ASEAN chair this year, said the bloc advocated "an immediate or early removal or easing of sanctions that have been applied against Myanmar by some countries. We believe that the international community needs to respond to recent developments to ensure that economic development in Burma can take place."
Mr Kasit said ASEAN would encourage the Burmese government to talk with Ms Suu Kyi to help the national reconciliation effort and would seek to persuade Burma's ethnic minority groups to stop fighting with the junta. ASEAN will ask Indonesia to send a delegation to Burma later this month to meet with the elected government and to observe its development. Renewed registration of Ms Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy, is among the issues to be raised with the Burmese government, he said.
Associated Press - 16 January 2011
Foreign Ministers of ASEAN have called for the lifting of sanctions during their "retreat" on the island of Lombok in Indonesia.
Myanmar ethnic parties urge lifting of sanctions
Agence France-Presse - 16 January 2011
Myanmar's main ethnic minority political parties called Sunday for Western nations to lift economic sanctions on the country as its new parliament prepares to convene for the first time. A joint declaration said sanctions imposed by the United States and European countries "are causing many difficulties in the important areas of trade, investment and modern technologies for the development of ethnic regions". "We ethnic parties together request that the United States and European countries lift sanctions," the parties said. The declaration was signed by the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, the Chin National Party, the All Mon Region Democracy Party and the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party.
Political parties call for an end to economic sanctions
The Myanmar Times - 10-16 January 2011
Several independent and non-aligned political parties which took part in the 7 November 2010 elections have called for an end to sanctions and are proposing to appeal to the US and EU urging their removal. The parties include the Democratic Party, the National Democratic Force, the Union Democratic Party, the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, the Wunthanu NLD and the Party for Democracy and Peace. Not all the parties succeeded in winning seats in the elections.
Note by Nertwork Myanmar: Many of the individuals concerned are former members of the National League for Democracy. The (deregistered) NLD itself, under Suu Kyi's guidance, say that they continue to study the issues. Sanctions are unpopular generally with the Burmese people, but the NLD may be reluctant to support their democratic colleagues as this would mean an abandonment of their previously held position to call for (1989-2002) and more recently to support (2002-2010) sanctions.
Burma release of Suu Kyi eases pressure for sanctions
Time - 7 January 2011
Vivienne Walt notes the reluctance of the US Administration to consider the imposition of further sanctions, despite pressures from the activist lobby to target non-Burmese banks providing services to the regime.
Note by Network Myanmar: Targeting non-Burmese banks would involve measures against China, Thailand, India, Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Dubai and elsewhere. Hardly a practical or sensible suggestion.
"Pause for Thought"
Burmese Perspectives - 6 January 2011
Derek Tonkin highlights the extent of the failure of sanctions, which would at least suggest that a change of policy should be considered.
International Herald Tribune - 30 December 2010
Interview with Aung San Suu Kyi
Newsweek - 21 December 2010
Extract: "Some people are using economic sanctions as an excuse for the [country’s] economic mess. [But] most economists think the main problem is the policies the present regime has imposed. A change in government policies [would] bring about a change in the economic situation. And that’s what organizations like the IMF say, as well as economists."
House of Lords Oral Question on the role of China in Burma/Myanmar
Hansard Parliamentary Record - 15 December 2010
In conclusion, the following exchange took place:
Lord Dubs: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a little difficulty with the sanctions regime against Burma, which instinctively we would all be inclined to support? If the sanctions are working, they will leave a gap for the Chinese; yet if western companies go into Burma, they are accused of conniving with the regime. There seems to be no answer to that.
Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State FCO): The noble Lord puts his finger on an obvious dilemma. The answer to it is responsible action by the Chinese. If China's activity effectively undermines the impact of sanctions, then the noble Lord is absolutely right in his analysis. However, it does not seem to be working that way. The sanctions appear to be causing considerable difficulties, reflected in the continual, bitter complaints made by the generals and the authorities about them. They feel that they are both hostile and damaging to their nation and target those who are richer and more comfortably ensconced rather than the ordinary people of Burma.
Note by Network Myanmar: The Minister seems unaware that the generals are multi-millionaires. Their complaints about sanctions are mainly for the attention of the long-suffering population of Myanmar, to explain to them that it is the West which is responsible for the stagnating economy and their low standard of living. They are a cover for their own mismanagement.
In a debate in the House of Lords on 12 October 2007, Lord Howell made comments which are the exact opposite of what he now has to say as a Minister: Lord Howell of Guildford [Economic Consultant, former Secretary of State for Energy and Transport and former Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs] "Burma is in all our minds. We are reminded that a whole range of economic sanctions has been in place for years, including the UK’s range of sanctions, which are more extensive than many others in Europe; namely, trade and investment sanctions, and heavy warnings and discouragements from the Government about getting involved in Burma at all. Have sanctions helped? The report is blunt and says that they have not. They have hurt ordinary people and made zero impact on progress to democratisation, which is very much the view so eloquently put by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and I sympathise. It is evident that all the cries of disassociation and disengagement [encourage tourists to?] stay away. Sanctions are much argued about, particularly on the so-called compassionate left of politics, but have had the opposite results and merely caused enormous suffering among a people who are longing for more contact, not less."
Washington's Burma policy isolates......Washington
Washington Post - 3 December 2010
Stanley Weiss, Chairman of Business Executives for National Security, proposes a four-point plan for resolving the sanctions dilemma.
Burma: the Sanctions Issue
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said that she wishes to review sanctions, to understand how they might be affecting the population. Here is a briefing which has been presented to her in Yangon.
Sanctions against Myanmar are of three main categories. In order of severity in terms of affecting the general population, they are:
1. The blocking by Western countries of funding from international financial institutions (IFIs), notably the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. This embargo means that Burma is at the bottom of the list of recipients of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). ODA in 2008 for Burma was only US$ 10.7 per capita per annum, compared with US$ 43.6 for Vietnam, US$ 47.9 for Laos and US$ 51.6 for Cambodia. Burma is thus missing out on some US$1.5 billion ODA each year for infrastructure and other development projects for the population as well as for essential financial restructuring.
Western countries are likely to continue to block such funding because this would need to be negotiated with and channelled through the Government. There would be strong resistance to this both from the US Congress and White House as well as from the EU. For this reason, Western action against IFIs is rarely included in any sanctions review by the West.
Recommendation - IFIs should be encouraged to carry out economic and financial restructuring analyses which are an essential preliminary to any eventual funding in 2012 and beyond.
2. The official discouragement of trade, investment and tourism. This is a powerful disincentive which inhibits Western traders, investors and tourists from deals, investments and visits. However, it is too broad based and affects both private as well as State businesses and enterprises. Western Governments are inclined to argue unconvincingly that their discouragement is only a "recommendation" and not a sanction proper.
Recommendation - Western Governments should cease to discourage all activity relating to the private sector in Burma.
3. Statutory sanctions are not all that effective because the interface between the West and Myanmar in trade and investment has for many years been so modest. Statutory sanctions are supposedly targeted at State, military and "crony" interests. US sanctions though are very broad and virtually amount to economic warfare, but US Deputy Secretary Kurt Campbell acknowledged to a congressional committee last year that they only cause "modest inconveniences" while (former) French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner went so far as to tell the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly earlier this year that "they serve no useful purpose". Most Western countries impose asset freezes and visa restrictions against senior members of the regime and seek to prevent investment in their enterprises and to ban exports of products like timber, precious stones and metals.
However, the trade and financial measures are in many respects poorly targeted, affecting for example small family businesses in the furniture and jewellery sectors with no known connections with State, military or crony interests. Western Governments doggedly maintain that their statutory sanctions are only carefully targeted. They must realise that this is not true.
Recommendation - Western Governments should be asked to review their sanctions and eliminate those where innocent people have been mistakenly targeted and where labour-intensive industries in the private sector like garments, seafood, rice and pulses have been affected as a result of the withdrawal since1997 of the benefits of the EU Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) which are in any case under global review.
• Lift sanctions burden from Burma
Washington Times - 27 November 2010
Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi Centre for Policy Research, highlights the absurdities of Western sanctions policy which have only strengthened China's position while weakening that of the US.
• An industrial project that could change Myanmar
International Herald Tribune - 26 November 2010
The massive industrial complex which a Thai conglomerate plans to construct at Dawei in south-eastern Myanmar on 250 sq. kms. "highlights the ineffectiveness of economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union" as Myanmar's neighbours "especially Thailand, China and India have been rushing to do business with the country." There are no laws in Myanmar covering environmental protection. "Some industries are not suitable to be located in Thailand," says Thai PM Abhisit.
• Targeting innocent traders
European Voice - 25 November 2010
Derek Tonkin provides an illustration of how EU sanctions target the wrong people by sanctioning sectors of the economy instead of known State, military and crony personalities.
• Suu Kyi comments on sanctions and tourism
Sunday Times - 28 November 2010
Suu Kyi is reported as claiming: "The effect of sanctions on the political front has not been inconsiderable, it has been considerable."
Note by Network Myanmar: We would not disagree, but would suggest that the effect has been to make the generals more obstinate and recalcitrant because of her support for sanctions. This has not helped her or the NLD.
Suu Kyi to revisit sanctions
Wall Street Journal - 20 November 2010
Suu Kyi signals her willingness to consider arguments for ending the Western economic boycott of Myanmar.
Suu Kyi's release starts sanctions debate
Tim Johnston considers the opening up of Myanmar to foreign investment, a tantalising prospect, though so much would seem to hang on the wishes of Suu Kyi who exerts a remarkable influence over Western policy.
Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, contrasts Western treatment of Myanmar and China. He concludes: "Despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, the seeds of democracy will not take root in a stunted economy. External penal actions without constructive engagement and civil-society development in a critically weak country defeat their very purpose."
Where Aung San Suu Kyi is wrong
Shaun Rein, MD of China Market Research Group, argues that Suu Kyi should be promoting active economic engagement instead of sanctions.
Note by Network Myanmar: Ever since June 1989, Suu Kyi has called for sanctions, though since May 2002 this pressure has been described as "support" for such sanctions as might be imposed by the West.
Myanmar pays the price for our lofty principles
The Globe and Mail - 16 November 2010
Carl Mortished, London-based Canadian financial journalist, recognises that "we must concede that the economic boycott has been an embarrassing policy failure for Western countries."
Suu Kyi calls on Europe and Germany to be more supportive
Deutsche Welle - 15 December 2010
Text of an interview with Deutsche Welle. "So far, I have not got the impression that economic sanctions have really hurt the public, but of course there are other voices that are perhaps still waiting to be heard, so we have yet to find out. I have been released just for over a month, and I haven't had time to go into this issue; I am waiting to read the latest report of the IMF, and perhaps the ADB and other economic institutions."
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi offers to review sanctions
Network Myanmar Press Release - 15 November 2010
Need to review EU sanctions which are badly targeted
Guernica - June 2010
Institute for Security and Development Policy Stockholm - 20 January 2010
The Notification of Stated Reasons and the Pakokku Eight
Burmese Perspectives - 2 February 2010
An enquiry into the case of the guild of eight goldsmiths and silversmiths in Pakokku who are the subject of "restrictive measures" by the European Union, for no apparent reason.
AFP (Paris) - 8 October 2009
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner floated the idea Wednesday of holding direct talks with the Burmese junta after acknowledging that sanctions had yielded no results."There is an idea that is new out there," Kouchner told the French Parliament's foreign relations committee. "Sanctions are useless and everyone recognises that. Should we not then show a greater openness to this government?" he said. Kouchner noted that the US administration of President Barack Obama was reviewing its approach and considering a new strategy to engage Burma. "Maybe we would be more useful if we took part?" Kouchner asked.
Note by Network Myanmar. The official report of the meeting reads: "Mme Aung San Suu Kyi vient en effet de se voir signifier une peine supplémentaire de prison destinée à l'écarter d’une campagne électorale qui pourrait déboucher, si le scrutin n'était pas truqué, sur une victoire de la Ligue démocratique. Que peut-on faire, en dehors de quelques aides ponctuelles ? Nous avons beaucoup discuté à New York, où est apparue chez nos partenaires l'idée un peu nouvelle que les sanctions ne servent à rien - il est vrai que tout a été fait en dehors d'une action qui affecterait les comptes des généraux dans les banques de Singapour – et qu'il faudrait peut-être faire preuve d'une plus grande ouverture envers ce gouvernement. Conformément à la volonté de M. Obama d'ouvrir le dialogue sur tous les fronts, les Américains semblent prêts à s'engager dans cette direction."
Our own unofficial translation of this record is: "Mme Aung San Suu Kyi has indeed just found herself sentenced to a further term of imprisonment which would remove her from an electoral campaign which could lead, if the voting is not rigged, to a victory for the National League for Democracy. What can we do, apart from providing some timely aid? We discussed this a lot in New York, where the rather new idea came to our partners that sanctions are useless - it is true that everything has been done apart from action which would affect the accounts of the generals in Singapore banks - and that we should perhaps try a greater opening up towards this government. Following the willingness of Mr Obama to open a dialogue on every front, the Americans seem ready to engage in this direction."
GAO Report - Washington
In their Report required by the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act in 2008 to assess the effectiveness of the section of the Act prohibiting the import of Burmese origin jadeite, rubies and related jewellery, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that, while US Agencies have taken "some steps" to implement the Act, "serious impediments remain" to restricting the trade.
On the international level, US Agencies would seem to have underperformed in every respect. No UN General Assembly Resolution has been attempted, because it would be sure to fail; no waiver has been sought from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) because that too could founder and could leave the US exposed to challenge; no international meetings have been called to discuss a global arrangement similar to the Kimberley Process for restricting trade in diamonds as there would seem to be no international support.
The GAO also noted that virtually all the jadeite (a relatively rare and high-quality form of jade) mined in the Kachin State of Myanmar is sold at Government auctions in Rangoon and exported to China where the price continues to rise, while most Burmese rubies are sent overland to Thailand for processing and only some highest-quality stones are actually sold at Government auctions. Thai jewellery sources claim that exports of jewellery to the US are declining mainly as a result of the JADE Act and that there have been significant cutbacks in the Thai jewellery industry, estimated at between 100,000 and 120,000 Thai workers employed. Some representatives of the US and foreign jewellery trade have said that "US import restrictions have little impact on the military regime and negatively impact small-scale miners and traders in Burma and jewellery workers in Thailand."
The negative assessment of the international implications is shared by the US State Department who in a letter appended to the Report note that the characteristics of the trade make implementation of the ban in the US and on an international scale "logistically difficult, cumbersome and possibly expensive" and that a world-wide consensus on such a ban is clearly lacking. In a related recommendation, the Report calls on US Agencies "to analyze the efficacy, challenges, and difficulties faced in implementing measures to restrict trade in Burmese-origin rubies, jadeite, and related jewelry in the context of the broader U.S. sanctions provisions in the JADE Act, and report to Congress how these measures will contribute to its efforts to influence the military regime in Burma." How indeed!
Aung San Suu Kyi writes to junta on sanctions
Channel News Asia - 26 September 2009
Detained Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has written to the chief of the ruling junta with suggestions about how to get Western sanctions lifted, her lawyer said on Saturday. The move represents a change of heart for the Nobel Peace Laureate, who has previously espoused punitive measures against the military regime as a way of pushing for democratic reform in the Southeast Asian nation. "Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has written a letter to Senior General Than Shwe regarding her thinking on the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on the country," her lawyer Nyan Win told AFP. "In the letter, she submits her thinking about what must be implemented for sanctions to be lifted," said Nyan Win, who is also the spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD). Nyan Win would not give further details about what the suggestions were, saying that they were waiting for the letter to be formally received by the government.
CNN.com - 25 September 2009
Suu Kyi has drafted a direct letter to Myanmar's military leader, Senior General Than Shwe, in which she says she will cooperate on getting the sanctions lifted, said her spokesman and lawyer U Nyan Win. He said he spent about an hour working with her on the letter describing her "new thinking" toward sanctions. The letter will be officially submitted to the military leader in a few days. Suu Kyi wants to know how many sanctions have been imposed on Myanmar and how many of them are having a negative impact on the people, Nyan Win said. In the drafted letter, she also said she wants to hear the opinions of other countries through their ambassadors based in Myanmar.
Note by Network Myanmar: Despite requests by the European Parliament and national parliamentary committees in Europe, EU Governments, both individually and collectively, have hitherto declined to make public any assessment of the effectiveness of their sanctions, no doubt because such assessments, if honestly and independently prepared, would highlight how counterproductive sanctions have been and the extent to which supposedly "smart" sanctions against the regime and its cronies have invariably hit the population at large. See in particular "Sanctions against Myanmar: Profit and Loss Account"
Comments on the Sanctions Issue
Note by Network Myanmar: Since May 2002, it has indeed been NLD policy to claim that they have never "called for" sanctions, but only "supported them". This was most recently confirmed (see Newsletter at link) in December 2007 when the Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported from Yangon on 9 December 2007:
"Burma opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party announced Friday 5 December 2009 that they were in no position to persuade Western governments to drop their sanctions against the country’s junta. 'Sanctions imposed by other countries are not the concern of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. It is the concern of the authorities and related countries', said NLD Spokesman Nyan Win, after he and three other NLD members met with Suu Kyi at the government’s Sein Le Kan State Guest House in Rangoon.”
The implication of Suu Kyi's latest remarks is that she has once again confirmed that it is not she or the NLD who have called for sanctions and a tourist boycott, but Western Governments who have chosen to impose them. It is accordingly up to Western Governments to decide what to do next as the responsibility lies entirely with them, and not with Suu Kyi or the NLD.
It should however be noted that Nyan Win has been reported as showing no interest in Senator Webb's visit from the start, that "The Irrawaddy" is a campaigning anti-regime publication, and that the actual direct expression of Suu Kyi's views is not yet known. Senator Webb has spoken to her directly, so his version of their conversation is awaited with interest.
Bangkok Post - 20 July 2009
Sanctions will not solve problems in Burma and should not be applied, according to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Speaking on his weekly radio and TV programme in his capacity as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Mr Abhisit yesterday said some Western dialogue partners might want sanctions to be applied against Burma, so all Asean countries should help express Asean's stance against such measures. Thailand is hosting an Asean foreign ministers meeting until Saturday in Phuket. The forum will discuss Burma after the junta barred United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon from meeting jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit two weeks ago.
A Selection of Studies and Reports on the Impact of Economic Sanctions
EU involvement in dictatorial regimes - Case study of Myanmar
Osaka University doctoral dissertation - March 2009
Dobromir Hristov (Doctoral Aspirant Osaka University)
When drawing up EU sanctions legislation in February 2008, there is strong evidence that the EU drew uncritically on Burmese trade directories to identify businesses and enterprises in targeted commodity areas. A comparison, for example, of the attached page from Myanmar Yellow Pages Online appears to have been scanned virtually unchanged into EU legislation at the time. The number of iron and steel foundries in both lists is exactly the same - nine enterprises are listed - and the only discernible difference is that the top three in the Yellow Pages list have become the bottom three in the EU legislation list (Nos. 528 - 536). They were in the top three in Yellow Pages because they had taken their own advertisement boxes and so got priority commercial treatment. In all other respects, the EU list is copied word for word, abbreviation for abbreviation, and punctuation mark for punctuation mark.
There is no evidence that any of these nine entreprises are owned by State, military or "crony" interests. Other EU legislation lists strongly suggest that they are based on the same edition of Myanmar Yellow Pages Online and that family businesses were transposed uncritically from this edition to EU legislation without any check on whether they were State or non-State, military or non-military, crony or non crony. EU Ministers and senior officials have admitted that they had not realised what was happening. They are however reluctant to redress the clear injustice inflicted in case any reduction in the list of sanctioned businesses and enterprises might "send the wrong message" at the present time and highlight how incompetent both Ministers and senior officials have been. The Yellow Pages used was www.myanmaryellowpages.biz , but there are rival publications such as www.myanmar-yellowpages.com and www.yellowpagesmyanmar.net which have broadly similar trade and business lists. For many Burmese business enterprises, it has been a matter of sheer luck that they did not appear in the "biz" edition but only in the "com" and/or "net" editions, and so escaped the EU razzia.
Question (Glenn Kessler - The Washinton Post) : Why do you think that possibly easing sanctions could influence a regime that is impervious to world opinion? And to the Foreign Minister, Indonesia has been a leader on the subject of Burma. What do you think are the necessary next steps?
Secretary Clinton: Well, Glenn, I appreciate your asking that question because the Minister and I have had a very positive exchange about the challenges that Burma poses. The unfortunate fact that Burma seems impervious to influence from anyone - and certainly Indonesia and the other ASEAN nations have attempted to intervene with Burma. But we are conducting a review, because we want to see the best ideas about how to influence the Burmese regime. And we are looking at every possible idea that can be presented.
Clearly, the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn't influenced the Burmese junta. But as the minister pointed out in our working meeting, reaching out and trying to engage them hasn't influenced them either. So this is a problem for not just Indonesia and the United States, but for the entire region. And we're going to work closely, we're going to consult with Indonesia for ideas about how best to try to bring about the positive change in Burma.
Foreign Minister Wirajuda: We always discuss the issue of Myanmar in a very open and frank manner (inaudible) also within ASEAN. We are going to have the ASEAN summit end of this month. And certainly, the issue of Myanmar will be again discussed for the initial as well as summit level. Myanmar has promised to organize what they call multiparty election next year under the new constitution. We must ensure that (inaudible) process needed leading to get elections. (Inaudible) will be (inaudible) of these particular neighboring countries to engage more closely with Myanmar. We see the importance of seeing the problem of Myanmar in much wider context, not only upon the lack of democracy and human rights, but concern of Myanmar on emotional (inaudible) to be national sovereignty. It is a real problem for them.
Secondly, on the dire situation, economic situation and monetary situations that the people of Myanmar are really suffering from. So I think together, the international community, ASEAN countries start work together in more comprehensive manner with the hope, of course, that this would potentially bring Myanmar to (inaudible) progress which support the strength that's been described to many of us, including the ASEAN countries. What's perhaps positive that Myanmar has opened itself by providing a charter to promote the ASEAN charter, including on the obligations of every member of ASEAN to promote democracy and human rights.
East Timor President Ramos-Horta on Sanctions
- Ramos Horta - Statement in support of a global arms embargo
- Ramos-Horta urges Obama to embrace Burma
- José Ramos-Horta opposes international sanctions on Myanmar
- East Timor President calls for review of Burma sanctions policy
- José Ramos-Horta opposes sanctions against Myanmar
- Ramos-Horta tells US, Europe to lift sanctions
- Interview with Ramos-Horta
National League for Democracy seek to clarify their position
"4. Confrontation, utter devastation, economic isolation and comprehensive sanctions, mentioned in paragraph 7 of State Peace and Development Council Declaration No.1/2007, do not benefit the country or the people..........."
"4. Paragraph 7 of the State Peace and Development Council Declaration No. 1/2007 asserts that confrontation, utter devastation, economic sanctions, and total isolation do not benefit the country or the people.........."”
Comment: The text of the SPDC Statement No. 1/2007 issued on 4 October 2007 does not in fact say that what we might describe as the Four Deadly Sins "do not benefit the country or the people". The actual text of paragraph 7 of that statement reads:
"7. At the courtesy call, State Peace and Development Council Chairman Senior General Than Shwe mentioned Mr Gambari that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been exerting efforts for Confrontation, Utter Devastation, and Imposing All Kinds of Sanctions including Economic Sanction against Myanmar. If she declares to give them up, the Senior General will personally meet her."
"Although the FCO details relevant debates and statements on its website, we are concerned that the Government and EU have not published any substantial analysis of the sanctions on Burma. We suggest that Government should undertake an urgent enquiry into sanctions policy on Burma, with a view to deciding whether it is worth continuing with it."
4. Debate on the Report in the House of Lords 12 October 2007 (Scroll to Column 460) -Extracts from the 12 October 2007 Debate in the House of Lords on the Report of the Economic Affairs Committee on the Impact of Economic Sanctions
The members of the Committee included two former Chancellors of the Exchequer, a former Governor of the Bank of England, a former Chief Executive Officer of TESCO, the author of a prize-winning three-volume history of the economist Keynes, an economist at the London School of Economics, an Indian-born business magnate, an industrialist and a former Chairman of the Financial Services Authority. The members are both supporters of the Labour, Liberal-Democrat and Conservative Parties as well as "Crossbenchers".
We review the Report of the sixteen distinguished members of the Economic Affairs Committee and the subsequent Debate on the Report in the House of Lords on 12 October 2007 (scroll down to Column 460 onwards) to which several non-Committee members of the House of Lords contributed. It is clear that nothing has changed in the intervening twelve months to weaken the unanimous conclusion of all the members concerned, both on the Committee and in the House, that sanctions against Myanmar have singularly failed to improve the situation, have undoubtedly affected the Burmese population as a whole and have made the military regime more unyielding and more determined than ever to press ahead with their constitutional Road Map and to reject political reform.
We present a sample of comments from the Debate:
Lord Wakeham - The Government maintain that the sanctions are targeted against the military regime with little humanitarian impact. Important measures such as the strong discouragement of trade and tourism are said to be not formal sanctions. This entirely misses the point. The effect is the same - to hurt the Burmese people.
Lord Lawson - One of the principal effects of the sanctions has been not merely to harm the Burmese people but to throw the Burmese Government more and more into the arms of China. That is not a great foreign policy triumph either. We must live in the real world.
Lord Ramsbotham - I am sorry that his [Aung San] daughter [Aung San Suu Kyi] is calling for people not to go and see the country. I believe that the opposite is needed.
Lord Skidelsky - I do not think that the recent events in Burma [August - September 2007] have rendered our view obsolete, though as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, rightly said, it is very hard to lift ineffective sanctions because it then seems to be a retreat from a position that was useless in the first place but now has to be stuck to because of loss of face in withdrawing it.
Viscount Eccles - In essence, the West has opted out of Burma. The sanctions are, in my view, irrelevant. What we are watching reminds me of an ancient Greek tragedy. There is a degree of inevitability. The events will unfold. Nobody can do anything about them. The awful generals are the villains of the piece, but also the victims. Nobody knows what to do, so we retreat into disapproval. This in no way measures up to the needs of the Burmese or the interests of the western world.
Lord Howell - Sanctions are much argued about, particularly on the so-called compassionate left of politics, but have had the opposite results and merely caused enormous suffering among a people who are longing for more contact, not less.