Political parties call for end to economic sanctions
January 10 - 16, 2011
A SENIOR member of the Democratic Party (Myanmar) last week used the 63rd anniversary of Independence Day to call for the removal of economic sanctions because of the negative impact they have had on ordinary Myanmar.
Democratic Party general secretary Daw Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein said at a ceremony on January 4 that senior party members were preparing to submit a proposal to the United States embassy in Yangon urging the removal of sanctions.
A spokesperson for the party said the proposal would also be sent to local political parties, elected representatives and the European Union. The US has blanket economic sanctions on Myanmar, while the European Union places prohibition on travel, investment and trade in some sectors of the economy. Other nations, such as Australia, pursue targeted sanctions that prohibit investment only with certain individuals.
The Democratic Party’s call comes at a time when many are questioning whether sanctions have had any positive effects. Some argue sanctions have done little to encourage democracy here and instead pushed the government closer, economically and politically, to its Asian neighbours.
Derek Tonkin, a former British ambassador to Vietnam and Thailand and chairman of Network Myanmar, said last week the system of sanctions applied to Myanmar had failed to induce political reform.
“Sanctions are still seen by Western politicians as having ‘symbolic’ importance. I suspect though that this symbolism is largely lost on the Burmese population,” he wrote in a statement.
While it would be “rational” to review of sanctions policy, “such a common-sense approach is politically difficult for the West”.
“It is not too hard to predict what an in-depth and independent review would be likely to conclude,” he said. “Sooner or later something will give way … and the House of Sanctions will come tumbling down like a pack of cards. We will then all wonder why it took so long.”
Daw Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein’s proposal was supported by representatives from the National Democratic Force (NDF), Union Democratic Party, Party for Democracy and Peace, Wunthanu NLD and Shan Nationalities Democratic Party who attended the ceremony.
But U Thein Tin Aung, chairman of the Union Democratic Party, said at the event that economic sanctions had not helped the transition to democracy and their removal should be used to foster national reconc-iliation between opposition groups and the military.
“To get some understanding between these groups we [democratic forces] should start by calling for the removal of sanctions because they create a barrier between us and the military,” he said. “Whether they are removed or not depends on the senators and congressmen from the United Sates. But we don’t share their opinion on the value of sanctions.”
U Thein Tin Aung said he saw little need to debate the issue. “It’s clear that [sanctions] are not a positive way of encouraging change,” he said. “So we should stop talking so much about the issue … each party should announce openly their opposition to sanctions and inform the public immediately. A group of four elected representatives led by U Thein Nyunt, formerly of the National Democratic Force, has also called for an end to sanctions.
U Thein Nyunt said the group, whose members were all elected from constituen-cies in Thingangyun town-ship, was arranging a motion calling for the removal of sanctions to present to the Pyithu Hluttaw.
“We are determined to get sanctions removed because we think they have affected foreign direct investment inflows,” he said. “We’ll work within the parliament to get our message across.”