Trade sanctions don’t faze Burma

Scott Tong May 28, 2007
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Trade sanctions don’t faze Burma

Scott Tong May 28, 2007
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BOB MOON: When you’ve spent 11 of the past 17 years under on-again, off-again detention, it can’t get any easier having your hopes for freedom dashed yet again.

Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will stay under house arrest in Burma. That news over the weekend from the military junta in Burma — they call it Myanmar. The West has imposed economic sanctions in response to the country’s treatment of advocates for democracy.

Even so, as Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports from Shanghai, Burma’s government has managed not just to survive, but thrive.


SCOTT TONG: In the late 1980s, Burma’s military cracked down on democracy efforts, and the U.S. and the E.U. responded with trade sanctions. But they’ve had little effect.

Ian Storey of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies says that’s because when the West pulled out, China pulled in.

IAN STOREY: It has become Burma’s number one partner in terms of military equipment, financial support. It’s basically thrown the country an economic lifeline.

And ties will likely deepen. Burma has deep natural gas reserves, which Beijing wants.

SEAN TURNELL: Going forward, it’s likely that Burma will only entrench itself as a vassal state of China economically.

That’s Sean Turnell of the Burma Economic Watch. He says sanctions won’t choke off Burma, but:

TURNELL: Many of the leaders of Burma’s military regime would really like to send their children to universities in the United States and Europe and so on, so we shouldn’t understate, in a sense, the effectiveness of some of those sanctions.

For China, a friendly Burma provides a geographical buffer against a rising India to the west. In short, security.

Sun Cheng teaches at the China University of Political Science and Law.

SUN CHENG (voice of interpreter): Asian and Western countries have basic differences in how they approach these relationships. China focuses a lot more on security and stability in the region.

As for the renewed house arrest of Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Beijing has remained silent. It considers her detention an “internal affair” in Burma.

In Shanghai, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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