After a ten-year political pause, Myanmar’s defense regained control of the nation in February 2021, prompting the international community to turn to an established tactic: economic sanctions.
The coup prompted a number of nations, including the United States and member states of the European Union, to implement or restore trade embargoes and other economic sanctions against Myanmar’s defense.
The second anniversary of the defense revolution fell on February 1, 2024, when the US announced a new round of restrictions. It occurs as ethnic minority rebel groups and the Myanmar authorities are still engaged in a bloody civil war. However, sanctions have not yet steered the war in the direction of pro-democracy resistance groups or pushed the ruling generals up toward a political course.
Furthermore, as authorities on East and Southeast Asia and financial sanctions, we are aware that Myanmar’s past and our own studies indicate that financial penalties are unlikely to have that effect any time soon.
restrictions imposed on Myanmar currently
The sanctions imposed against Myanmar today are very similar to those put in place before 2010, when the nation started a procedure to restore democratic government. The US, EU, and other nations ‘ actions since 2021, which include targeted and sector-specific sanctions, are intended to undermine the military regime’s capacity to violently control the pro-democracy activity in the nation.
The people who are enforcing punishment also seem to be more aware than in earlier times of the possible harm they could cause to the Burmese people.
The punishment put in place following the coup in 2021 are more specific and intended to have an impact on the military government and its businesses. The fiscal measures were more extensive in earlier times and had an impact on the entire Myanmar economy.
This is intentional. Executive Order 14014, the legal base for US economic sanctions against Myanmar after 2021, forms the basis for a number of qualified measures, including limitations on people and companies involved in providing jet fuel to Myanmar’s air force.
The new US sanctions regime, which was enacted on February 11th, 2023, reflects changes in the Biden administration’s strategy to use economic sanctions to punish the generals of Myanmar rather than its citizens.
Additionally, the US has made it a priority to collaborate with foreign partners on enacting comparable restrictions as opposed to competing ones.
On December 10, 2021, which also happened to be Human Rights Day, proof of this coordination began to surface. The US was implementing a set of actions in collaboration with the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union.
For instance, many of the same sanctions imposed by the US, such as limitations on the import of defense and dual-use products, asset freezes, card and go restrictions, and restrictions on telecommunications equipment are included in the EU’s “restrictive measures,” which the bloc refers to as economic sanctions.
The Specially Designated Nationals record, a list of individuals with whom US residents and businesses are prohibited from conducting business, is another tool used by the US to impose precise restrictions. Military officials, businesspeople, and their communities are among the listed companies in Myanmar.
Instead of concentrating the nation’s economic suffering on the revolution and later repression of democracy campaigners, the idea is to concentrate it on specific people and organizations.
Previous restrictions against Myanmar
Past undoubtedly demonstrates that the US needed to modify its sanctions stance.
Some observers in Myanmar have long questioned the effectiveness of the previous sanctions regime, coming to the conclusion that it had little bearing on the regime’s decision to reestablish democracy. The democratic elections in Myanmar were actually a part of the army’s strategy, not the result of pressure from sanctions.
The fact that earlier sanctions intended imports from important economic sectors of Myanmar, like clothing and textiles, that were unrelated to the junta contributed to this skepticism about them. These financial sanctions hurt Myanmar’s personal businesses.
The most recent restrictions are directed at businesses that are affiliated with or owned by the military, such as Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited, and Myanma Gems Enterprise.
However, some of the issues that plagued the prior restrictions are also present in the post-2021 ones.
As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia are unlikely to denounce or even censure Myanmar’s military leaders.
As a result, there has been disagreement within the global community regarding how to respond to Myanmar’s human rights violations and political complacency. While nations in East and Southeast Asia have maintained diplomatic and trade relations with the military authorities, European nations have chosen to remove Myanmar through focused trade and financial restrictions.
Additionally, there is a reason for Southeast Asian nations not to participate in any punishment program. Myanmar’s business relationships tend to be strongest within its place, as we demonstrate in our upcoming guide,” Trading with Pariahs.”
South Asian economic ties with Myanmar grew stronger during the first sanctions regime, which lasted from 1988 to 2015, as the nation’s trade with sanctions-imposing European states decreased.
Maintaining relationships with Myanmar offered East and Southeast Asian nations not just financial opportunities but also a plan for keeping an eye on and possibly improving Myanmar’s inside situation.
For instance, despite the junta’s refusal to permit political primaries and address human rights violations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, admitted Myanmar in 1997. Instead of shunning Myanmar’s generals abroad, the companions of Myanmar preferred to try and take them in from the cold.
Additionally, despite Singapore’s recent announcement that it will halt arms transfers to Myanmar, East Asian nations and ASEAN members continue to refrain from sanctions Myanmar and favor wedding over isolation.
Is sanctions be effective?
There are reasons to think that US sanctions wo n’t be able to bring the government to its knees, despite the fact that they may harm the military. The likelihood of future leverage is likely limited by the unequal end of the United States ‘ earlier sanctions, which gave American businesses insufficient time to fully participate and engage in Myanmar’s market.
Those nations with a lot of liquidity are unlikely to censure Myanmar. And this affects US or Western attempts to remove the nation.
The West’s restrictions on the business in jet fuel present a problem. The” Deadly Cargo” statement from Amnesty International in 2023 showed how, despite US sanctions on the gas, Myanmar’s military can still obtain trustworthy shipments of jet fuel.
The reason is that regional trading partners supply more than 95 % of Myanmar’s delicate petroleum oils, which are required for plane fuel. The majority of the jet fuel used by the Myanmar military since 2021 has come from China, Thailand, Singapore, and Russia, allowing it to carry on bombing activities all over the nation.
The effect of these sector-wide sanctions on jet fuel is still unknown, despite the US Treasury’s expansion of its sanctions to include both military and commercial aircraft.
The success and chances of success seem to be quite similar, despite the fact that the current US sanctions are very different from earlier attempts to force Myanmar’s generals.
Without significant attempts from those nations with the capacity to destroy their substantial economic interdependence, such as China, Japan, and ASEAN part states, the potential for alter in Myanmar seems unlikely given the lack of economic ties between it and nations outside its area.
ASEAN is aware of the deterioration of animal rights, and by refusing to give Myanmar its seat in the organization’s seat in 2026, it has shown that it recognizes the atrocities committed by the regime and supports civilians.
However, it is unlikely that the regional bloc will ever impose financial sanctions on Myanmar, raising more questions about the effectiveness of American sanctions in enhancing democracy and human rights.
Keith A. Preble teaches social science as a visiting assistant professor at Miami University, and Charmaine Willis is Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Skidmore College.
Under a Creative Commons license, this article is republished from The Conversation. read the article in its entirety.