The Economist was spot on in the highlighted sections. Many western nations (including the U.S.) already have sanctions against Myanmar but it does not matter because all its neighbors are eager to trade with it. As long as the money flows between the junta and China, ASEAN, and India there will be no significant change unless the junta decides money flow is being hurt by too much oppression, so they need to liberalize…it remains to be seen though if the junta think like South Korea, Taiwan and other nations who made the jump from authoritarianism to liberal democracies after decades of strong economic development. Unlike the former nations, Myanmar is not ethnically homogeneous and I am not convinced the Burmese Junta care enough about Myanmar as a nation to care if it develops or not. Truthfully, Myanmar is the country in Southeast Asia I know the least about, but from my understanding the junta does not even control all of the country (although most) and are fighting some strong secessionists movements, that have been going on for over 30 years, the place is the most backward nation (but maybe for Laos) in Southeast Asia. Truly a mess.
Life beyond the pale
Oct 4th 2007
From The Economist print edition
The outside world seems powerless to help the benighted country
“NORMALCY” has now returned to Myanmar, boasted its foreign minister, Nyan Win, to the United Nations General Assembly this week. Sadly, he was right. It is normal for the country to be in the grip of vicious repression, with 15,000 soldiers keeping order on the streets of the largest city, Yangon; normal for unknown numbers of peaceful protesters to have been killed and for others to vanish into the Burmese gulag; and normal for the country to retreat into its default mode, isolation, with internet connections and mobile-phone lines largely cut. Days of brave protests, led by monks, had given a glimpse of the hopes that people power has brought to many countries, from the Philippines to Ukraine. But people power meets its match in a regime ready to kill and torture as many as it takes to cling to power. Myanmar’s junta fits that bill.
Sadly, too, it is also entirely normal that the outside world is at a loss about how to react. And rather than speak in one outraged voice, it is giving these thugs the comfort of mixed messages. The divisions run along predictable lines. On the one side is the West, wringing its hands and thundering impotently. America, which already has tough sanctions against Myanmar in place, was swift to announce even tougher ones. Some in Congress want secondary sanctions against China, calling for a boycott of next year’s Beijing Olympics.
On the other side are the Asian countries that have “engaged” rather than shunned the junta. Most important are China, India and Myanmar’s fellow members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). They, on the whole, are wagging fingers sternly at the misbehaving generals, but not threatening any sanctions. They seem to be waiting for the storm to pass and business-as-usual to resume, as it has in part since 1988, the last time the junta spilled a lot of blood to stay in power. But ASEAN, above all, has a duty to act in the face of one of the biggest tests the group has faced.
In one sign of a fragile international unity, the United Nations special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, visited Myanmar (see article). And the Human Rights Council, on which China has a seat, adopted a resolution that “strongly deplores” the repression (“condemns” was apparently too interventionist for the squeamish Chinese). Even that went further than India, whose foreign minister hoped that “the process of national reconciliation” in Myanmar “would be taken forward expeditiously” and tentatively suggested the junta hold an inquiry into “recent incidents”.
ASEAN’s mid-life crisis
An ASEAN statement departed from the group’s habitual timidity to express “revulsion” at the violence and call for the release of all political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader. For the sake of its own credibility, ASEAN will have to do more. It admitted Myanmar as part of its 30th-birthday celebrations in 1997, brushing aside criticism with the promise that engagement would help civilise the generals. This always seemed a convenient fiction to help ASEAN‘s loggers to strip the teak forests, its jewellers to scoop up rubies and Thailand’s electricity authority to buy Burmese gas.
If engagement was supposed to buy influence, now is the time to use it. As ASEAN celebrates its 40th birthday, one of the world’s most loathed regimes should not be helping to blow out the candles. Its continued membership of the organisation should be made conditional on its embarking on a genuine transition to civilian rule. ASEAN has never known where to set the bar for acceptable behaviour among its members. But wherever it is, it is surely too high for Myanmar.