Monday, December 24, 2012

TOP 10 Events of 2012—No 8

Monday, 24 December 2012 11:22 Mizzima News

Mizzima’s sister publication, M-Zine+, has selected what its editors have decided are the 10 biggest events or issues in Burma over the past 12 months.

We began the countdown on December 22 at No. 10, and will recall one issue each day until we finish on December 31 with the most momentous event of the year.

No rest for the little elves at, we will be working all the way through Xmas and New Year, bringing you the latest and most accurate news from Burma.

8. Sanctions on Burma wither away

US Burma envoy (now Ambassador) Derek Mitchell, third from right, is pictured with Aung San Suu Kyi at a Rangoon press conference at her residence earlier this year. (Photo: Mizzima)

Economic and other types of sanctions have a long history dating back at least to the Age of Pericles in ancient Greece. Policy makers, and often public opinion, see them as a tactic that, at least in the past, accompanied or was a curtain raiser for war. Today, in many situations they are looked upon as an alternative that stops short of actual fighting.

As a tactic or strategy it is less hammer than Leatherman—a multi-purpose tool. Sanctions have been used to weaken opponents, to demonstrate resolve, for domestic political reasons (to be seen to be doing something in the face of a more militant public), as a deterrent, and to force compliance or compel a change of behavior.

It was very much with the latter in mind that many Western nations imposed sanctions upon Myanmar’s military government and its supporting economic structure over the years.

To argue that sanctions never work is misguided, since they have and do under certain circumstances. But whether they should have been imposed on Burma is another question, with adherents of different points of view on this vehement in their assertions.

Inevitably, not all arguers have proceeded from the purest of motives. Many of those for “constructive engagement” had fairly obvious pecuniary motives, while many favoring robust sanctions had staked out rigid policy stances from which they believed everything else must proceed.

Fortunately, many of the arguments are becoming moot as 2012 saw a general lifting of almost all sanctions (weaponry, cronies, and, in the case of the US, rubies being some of the exceptions).

Whether the pro-sanctions lobby wants to view the sanctions lifting as a reward for good behavior, or the anti-sanctions forces wants to see their lifting as a belated recognition of futility, all the while with a eye cocked towards China, matters less to most Burmese citizens than the fact those sanctions are gone—offering possibilities for better economic growth and development.
M-ZINE+ is a business weekly available in print in Yangon through Innwa Bookstore and through online subscription at

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