Thursday, July 29, 2021

Sanctions and boycotts to roll back the Burmese army

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In the absence of United Nations (UN) sanctions for Russian and Chinese obstruction, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union have reimposed sanctions against the Burmese generals, as well as against two military-controlled conglomerates, Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC) and their subsidiaries. Three other state structures in precious stones, pearls and wood have been targeted since April by the US Treasury Department.

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These sanctions raise the question of their effectiveness. The Tatmadaw, the Burmese army, has survived those imposed until democratization in 2016. And other less observant economic partners, and largely more present in the Burmese economy – such as China, which denounces arbitrary pressures “ -, hurry to the gate.

They nevertheless come at a crucial time: “The current impact of sanctions is emotional and psychological”, explains, from Rangoon, Thibaut Bara, guest researcher at the Center for Economic and Social Development, a Burmese research center. “Despite exploding poverty and unemployment, the state of mind of the population is civil war. Any setback, even symbolic, of the generals is a victory which helps the resistance to keep hope despite the brutal repression. “

“Shining light” by the coup d’etat

For the Burmese, nothing is settled: “The army did not anticipate such resistance. For three months, we have been face to face with flagrant asymmetries, says Sophie Boisseau du Rocher, from the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). The government of national unity [formé par des députés en exil] multiplies political initiatives. He takes a lot of risks and deserves to be supported. And it would be wrong to completely exclude that the behind-the-scenes discussions led by ASEAN [Association des nations d’Asie du Sud-Est] cannot change the course of events. “

“From now on, all Burmese activists are calling for boycott actions, not just the defenders of the Rohingya”, explains Sophie Brondel, from the NGO Info Birmanie.

In addition to these sanctions, there is another economic lever: the boycott campaign against foreign companies doing business with the Tatmadaw, originally launched by the NGO Justice For Myanmar, a group of Burmese activists, in April 2020, on the basis of of a 2019 report detailing the military’s grip on the country’s economy following the abuses against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities. This came from an independent international mission of experts from the UN Human Rights Council.

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