Sanctions Won’t Hurt Myanmar’s Brutal Leaders, Activists Say. Here’s What Could

The U.S. imposed new sanctions on senior leaders of Myanmar’s army junta on Monday—the eve of the one-year anniversary of their overthrow of the nation’s democratically elected authorities and imprisonment of its chief, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The U.S., joined by the U.Ok., and Canada, introduced sanctions on officers who helped prosecute Aung San Suu Kyi, the pinnacle of the Nationwide League for Democracy. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was arrested within the Feb. 1, 2021 coup. Myanmar courts have sentenced her to a complete of six years in jail as of Jan. 10—however she faces extra expenses.
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Washington additionally slapped penalties on the scion of the Kyaw Thaung household, who the New York Occasions reported has sturdy ties to the Myanmar army and helped it procure tools. The sanctions additionally focused a Myanmar authorities company accountable for procuring arms for the army, which is thought regionally because the Tatmadaw.

However activists and Myanmar watchers say that the focused sanctions will do little to discourage a brutal regime that’s more and more remoted from the West and decided to place down resistance to its rule with violent repression. Greater than 1,500 individuals have been killed in encounters with the junta throughout the nation, in response to human rights group Help Affiliation of Political Prisoners.

“I believe it’s honest to say that the West has had little leverage in Myanmar each politically and on the bottom because the coup,” says John Nielsen, Senior Analyst at Danish Institute for Worldwide Research and former Danish Ambassador to Myanmar.

Professional-democracy protesters have lengthy referred to as on the worldwide group to seek out methods to chop off the junta’s income streams. And since final yr’s coup, a number of Western companies—together with power giants TotalEnergies of France and Chevron of the U.S.—have vowed to drag enterprise out of Myanmar on account of human rights abuses within the nation.

Learn extra: Myanmar’s Artists Are Persevering with to Resist from Overseas

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and different members of the Tatmadaw have been already underneath sanction by the U.S. and different nations. Human Rights Watch has urged the United Nations Safety Council to impose a legally-binding world arms embargo on Myanmar.

However along with punitive measures, Burmese exiles say the worldwide group should work to guard individuals struggling underneath the junta’s rule. London-based Burmese activist and scholar Maung Zarni says neighboring states ought to open their borders to Burmese refugees who flee from the Tatmadaw.

They’re additionally cautious of dialogue with the army leaders, which neighboring international locations together with some members of the Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), favor. Nay San Lwin, a co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, a worldwide community of Rohingya activists and allies, says many Burmese protesters really feel such talks will solely serve to cement the coup-leaders’ legitimacy.

Learn extra: ‘Risking Every little thing.’ Myanmar Activist Talks About Her Combat

However not everyone seems to be shunning the Tatmadaw. Russia has been criticized for warming as much as Myanmar post-coup, persevering with to promote arms and its officers attending junta-led occasions. China additionally has ongoing dealings with Myanmar, however has taken a extra ambivalent stance: It urged ”to restart the democratic course of” within the Southeast Asian nation whereas participating with each the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed forces. “China’s major goals in Myanmar is to make sure stability on the borders and get entry to the Indian Ocean by an financial hall from Kunming to Rakhine. They’ll work with any get together within the battle to perform these goals—and that’s in essence what they’re doing,” Nielsen says.

Jason Tower, Director for Myanmar at america Institute of Peace, says there have to be a regional method to the disaster, as corporations intently aligned with the junta function in neighboring states. If the U.S. and allies can persuade Myanmar’s neighbors, together with Thailand and India, to crack down on these companies, it may have a dramatic impact on the money flowing to army leaders.

However the window for such motion could also be closing. Cambodia has taken over chairmanship of ASEAN in 2022. And Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen—no pal of democracy—has given a conditional invitation the Myanmar coup chief. Final yr, the 9 international locations barred the Myanmar junta’s consultant from attending its conferences.

More and more many activists say they can not depend on the worldwide group to assist their reason behind restoring a democratic authorities in Myanmar. They’re placing their religion in ethnic minority militias which have lengthy fought the Tatmadaw, and the Individuals’s Protection Pressure—an armed group composed of members of Myanmar’s exiled shadow authorities and pro-democracy protesters. “If we wish to be free, now we have to combat for ourselves,” says Zarni.


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