Sanctions — Part 3 — Some proposed alternatives

After two posts spent complaining about the problems with the current system, I offer some proposals:

1.     While I support ultimately ending all general economic sanctions for Burma, I understand that to do so would result in a perceived “win” for the ruling junta.  With the upcoming farcical elections, this would be an awful time to take such an action.  However, I propose immediately setting a floor for both investment sanctions as well as export sanctions.  Even a floor as low as say, $10,000 would allow westerners to make small investments to help Burmese people, without providing much benefit to the government.

2.     At the very least, provide an exception for the export of small amounts of artworks to allow local craftspeople and artisans to market their works to western countries.  This would have the dual benefits of providing a means of supporting traditional arts and handicrafts as well as raising consciousness of the purchasers regarding the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Burma.

3.     Put more pressure on neighboring countries and our allies to, in turn, put more pressure on the junta.  While putting on pressure on China is unlikely to have much effect, we can certainly be firmer with our allies in the region.  There have been allegations that money controlled by the ruling generals is held in Singapore banks.  Thailand is Burma’s largest trading partner.  Myanmar’s neighbors have even voted to make it the home of the 2013 Southeast Asian Games.  India‘s relationship with Burma is growing by the day.  There have even been rumors that Israel has supplied Myanmar with arms, or at least has assisted in some arms production that ended up there.

4.     Expand the use of targeted sanctions.  Lets freeze all the bad guys’ money.  while the US does have some targeted sanctions in place, I understand that the list is woefully under-populated and poorly enforced.  We should devote time and resources to making sure that the people responsible for the systematic abuse of the Myanmar people are punished.

So, to summarize – broad economic sanctions don’t work, but they stay in place because it is easier for politicians to do something easy with no political fallout that doesn’t work than it is to do hard analyses and make tough choices to adopt policies that might have an impact.  As a result, these sanctions are doing more harm than good and are, in fact, getting in the way of some real action.  I ask our leaders to please stop using Burma as political copy and take steps to actually improve the situation there.

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