Saturday, October 20, 2007

The pressure on Burma

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, it isn't often (to say the least) that I have something nice to say about George W. Bush and his disastrous presidency, but, on Burma, he is at least saying and doing the right things (for now). The BBC has the latest (see also the AP):

US President George W Bush has announced further sanctions against Burma's ruling junta.

Mr Bush ordered a tightening of export controls, and urged India and China -- who have extensive trade ties with Burma -- to apply more pressure.

And he asked the Treasury Department to freeze the financial assets of members of the military regime not covered by previous measures.

The announcement follows the violent suppression of anti-government protest.

The country's leaders had continued to defy international demands to "stop their vicious persecution", Mr Bush said.

The US has already imposed substantial trade, investment and diplomatic sanctions on the regime, freezing assets and imposing visa bans on senior generals and their families.

"Monks have been beaten and killed. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been arrested," said Mr Bush in a White House statement on Friday.

"Burma's rulers continue to defy the world's just demand to stop their vicious persecution."

"We are confident that the day is coming when freedom's tide will reach the shores of Burma."

What else is he to do, short of military action? One hopes that the pressure on India and China is forceful. One hope that the sanctions will weaken the totalitarian regime in Burma.

And yet -- Will India and China give in to American pressure (given, among other things, Bush's weakness)? Will they back out of, and away from, a country in which they both have substantial investments? Japan and the EU are siding with the U.S., but, ultimately, China, India, and Burma's other regional neighbours are the ones who will have to step up if the regime is not just to cease its present round of brutality but to fall entirely. And will an enhanced sanctions regime even work?

Whatever the answers to those questions, this effort is at least something -- and, as I have said before, something (Bosnia) is better than nothing or not enough to make much of a difference (Rwanda).

For more, see our previous posts on the situation in Burma here -- including a post on what can be done to liberate the people of that oppressed country.

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