Sanctions No Help to Suu Kyi

| September 13, 2009
International Voices forum

As it sentenced the country’s representative of resistance, Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months additional detention, Burma’s military junta displayed no disposition to discuss democracy.

The failure of the economic sanctions implemented to lobby for her liberation, by Australia, the EU and the U.S. is painfully palpable. The sanctions have simply allowed countries like China and international corporate giants to increase their influence and investment in the country instead.
 
U.S. Democrat, Senator Jim Webb affirmed to CNN after a recent visit to Burma:
"Sanctions don’t work if you have a country like China that (is) pouring billions of dollars into places like Myanmar. (The sanctions) have shut off the contact with the very people who can raise the level of consciousness among the Burmese citizens and actually assist in the evolution of the political process."
 
Besides, Thailand meets more than 75% of its electrical energy requirements by utilising Burma’s off-shore natural gas and hydroelectric dams.
 
Then there are the corporate opportunists who capitalise on the nitty-gritties of the ‘fine-print’; Chevron (a U.S. company) and TOTAL (French) have massive operations in Burma because they signed their multi-million dollar deals before the heightened international ado. According to CNN, TOTAL paid the reprobate regime $250 million in taxes in 2008 for the Yadana natural gas project.
 
International Voices forumAustralia has imposed financial sanctions under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations which the Government claims it will continue with till the authoritarians acquiesce. Australia also has a longstanding ban on defense exports, maintains travel restrictions on members of the regime and continues to refer to the country as ‘Burma’.
 
In a written statement, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said:
“I am deeply dismayed by the verdict delivered today on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi… I join the international community in condemning the conviction and ongoing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and in calling for her immediate and unconditional release…”
 
But the dictatorship defiantly defers all denouncements in a despotic disregard for democracy.
 
It has the jitters because elections are scheduled next year and Suu Kyi’s National Democratic Party won over 80% of the votes in the last free elections in 1990. So this time, it wants to ensure that she has no pull in the polls. Thus is imposed the conveniently-timed ‘charge’ which stems from a May 3rd incident in which an American military ex-serviceman, John William Yettaw, 53, swam to her lake house, and stayed there for 2 days. This unwarranted act resulted in a violation of the terms of the house arrest under which she has been placed for over 14 of the last 20 years.
 
So was her trial fair or was its objectivity obscenely objectionable?
 
The fishy facts are as follows. During the proceedings, only two defense witnesses were allowed to testify for Suu Kyi; compared to more than a dozen used against her by the prosecution. The verdict was ‘supposed’ to be announced ‘sometime’ after the final hearings on July 24, but was delayed numerous times with no reason given, while the judges ‘considered other circumstances’. Displaying a clearly hardened stance, the junta even disallowed U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from meeting her earlier this year when he visited Burma.
 
The entire incident scripts to a well-etched plot. The conviction came just before her house arrest term was due to expire in August. Strategically, the verdict was delayed till after 8th August, when opposition marks the 1988 anniversary of the national uprising for democracy. Mid-August is also a convenient time as senior government and political figures are away on vacation.
 
What’s even more interesting to note is how all the immoral investment is being rendered invisible; over 30% of the country’s citizens continue to live under the poverty line. The militancy (not military) management is not only making a jest of justice, they’re also mustering up millions in international bank accounts. It is this ill-accumulated asset pool of the authoritarians which needs to be targeted; their personal pillage.
 
It is by freezing the individual assets of Magneto’s X-Men army that the oligarchs can be obtruded into obedience.
 
There’s a catch; this move necessitates the support of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the 10-member body of which both Thailand and Burma are key stakeholders. Singapore is also a member and it too has dollar dealings with the dubious ones. All the member states would have to be on board and unfortunately, the association is reluctant to grill its golden goose.
 
It is time for the international community to collectively condemn the countries and corporations who continue to pump pounds into the profligate pockets. Till pressure is exerted on all the power players, dictatorship will defiantly defer the dawn of democracy, and the sun will set on the skyline of sovereignty.
 
 
Richa Sharma is freelance political journalist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media and Mass Communication from the University of Delhi, and is currently undertaking her Master’s degree in Media Practice from the University of Sydney. Richa’s previous role was with Google India.  
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