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11 August, 2021 11:47:21 PM
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How effective is the blockade on Myanmar?

Most observers believe that the imposition of a large embargo on a country or the suspension of travel bans and financial aid will not only hurt the main players for the crisis but also the poor and those who need more cooperation.
Md Tareq Hasan
How effective is the blockade on Myanmar?

Democrats in Myanmar sincerely want the international community to take a strong stand against the military junta forcibly seizing power. Whenever the military takes power in any country, the western world wants to impose blockade on that country through various processes. They stopped selling arms to the country. In some cases, sanctions have been imposed on top military officials, but in the case of Myanmar, things seem to be moving in a very different direction. What's that strategy is a mystery to the world.

Myanmar's neighbours are focusing on trade and financial transactions rather than on the military. For example, let's talk about Australia. Australia never wants to take a clear position on any issue. They have always determined their position in the light of the position of their allies, especially the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union.

Western nations have not yet taken the necessary steps to impose sanctions. However, they have banned trade and commerce controlled by the Myanmar army and with the Myanmar army. The military junta has also decided to confiscate the assets of top officials and their families living abroad and impose travel bans on them. But in the national interest, Australia does not want to take such an extreme decision right now. No other country in the region has taken such drastic action against Myanmar. Australia prefers to use this as an excuse.

ASEAN leaders last met in April in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. Myanmar has been a member of ASEAN since 1997. ASEAN leaders have also not taken a stand by dismissing Myanmar's military leaders, but have called for a dialogue to resolve the ongoing crisis, despite reports of violence in Myanmar over the past few months.

Myanmar's military has ruled the country for nearly two decades, and ASEAN leaders have taken a similar stance. On the other hand, China has made it clear that they are on the side of Myanmar. China is trying to find a development process that is consistent with the current situation in Myanmar. The United Nations has not been able to take effective action against Myanmar because of its public support for the military junta.

There have been blockades in Myanmar before. The United States and the European Union imposed a blockade on Myanmar in September of that year, after the military cracked down on democrats in 1988. The then administration of the United States stopped providing all kinds of financial assistance and arms sales. In 1989, the military placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. In the light of all these incidents, the level of blockade was also strengthened.

The Clinton administration also suspended visas in 1996 for allies of Myanmar's military junta. Then in 1997 all new investments in Myanmar were banned. In 2003, the US Congress banned all imports from Myanmar and banned US citizens from engaging in any form of financial assistance or professional work in Myanmar.

In 2008, the import of any kind of valuable minerals or ornaments produced in Myanmar was banned. After the United States took these steps, other Western countries followed the same path. The European Union imposed a blockade on the use of weapons and visas for Myanmar's top military officials and their families after the United States in 1996.

The European Union also stopped importing timber and timber products, other metal products and precious stones from Myanmar in 2007. Australia, the United States and the European Union supported the move at the time. They also impose restrictions on the financial transactions of top military officials as well as suspend their visas and impose travel bans. But Australia has taken action against dozens of military officials, but has never stopped trade and financial transactions with Myanmar.

At the time, Myanmar's neighbours were still conducting trade with Myanmar. China has deepened relations with Myanmar rather than before. ASEAN leaders then spoke of dialogue, even Malaysia did not want to spoil relations with Myanmar. Although the United States and some of its allies took a hard line against Myanmar at that time, the Asian countries did not take such a step. Although the United States imposed sanctions on Myanmar at the time, Asian countries increased trade and investment with Myanmar.

Reviewing this real picture of history, international analysts consider the imposition of a new blockade on Myanmar as meaningless. In fact, unilaterally blocking trade and investment is doomed to failure on all fronts. Most observers believe that the imposition of a large embargo on a country or the suspension of travel bans and financial aid will not only hurt the main artisans in the crisis but also the poor and those who need more cooperation.

A 2004 study by the US State Department found that 50,000 to 60,000 workers in Myanmar's garment industry lost their jobs in 2003 after a ban was imposed on imports from Myanmar. The question is, in 2021, will the United States, Europe, and the West really be able to impose sanctions that put pressure on Myanmar's ruling class?

Analysts say this is not impossible because the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe have a huge impact on the global economy. According to Human Rights Watch, the blockade by the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union will have far-reaching implications because the world's major economic institutions and banks are located in these countries and controlled from here. Shares are traded around these banks. Therefore, if the big countries impose blockade, the economic activities of the besieged country may come to a standstill.

Thomas Andres, the UN special envoy to Myanmar and former US congressman on the human rights situation, said the impact would be severe if US authorities imposed a blockade on Myanmar's junta administration. As a result, if any bank outside the United States transacts US dollars with the help of the Myanmar administration, they will have to face large criminal charges and fines. If that happens, Myanmar's military junta could face financial ruin, even with Chinese support.

Another way to destabilize the Myanmar administration is to put pressure on multinational companies through human rights organizations and civil society. In the meantime, multinational companies have been called into question by colluding with Myanmar's military companies.

South Korean steelmaker POSCO and Indian company Adani Group have already been accused of aiding Myanmar's military junta. As an alternative to the military junta, the country's ousted parliamentarians have already formed a shadow government, calling on all foreign financial institutions to sever ties with Myanmar's military administration. The companies have also been asked not to pay any financial bills to the Myanmar government.

Democrats want to oust Myanmar's military government and force it to relinquish power and restore democracy.  But there are doubts about how far the international community can go in moving towards a blockade.

The writer is a student of Rajshahi University.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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