Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Europe acts on Burma

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the BBC:

The European Union has formally adopted tighter sanctions against Burma following the violent suppression of recent pro-democracy protests.

New measures include an embargo on imports of gemstones, timber and metal, and a wider visa ban against members of the Burmese military government.

The EU already has a travel ban on top officials, an arms embargo and a freeze on the junta's assets in Europe.

The new move came as south-east Asian leaders met for talks in Singapore.

The leaders of the 10-nation Asean bloc, which includes Burma, are coming under increasing pressure to take action against the junta.

Europe and the U.S. have, on the whole, responded admirably to the crackdown in Burma. They are saying the right things, and, for the most part, seem to be doing what they can, short of military intervention (which is, needless to say, not a viable option, for a variety of reasons), to isolate the totalitarian junta that tyrannizes over that poor country.

The problem is, these "tighter sanctions" might not prove to be all that effective:

Financial restrictions on Burma going back more than a decade have left the EU with relatively few economic interests in the country.


And the EU's restrictions are not as stringent as those adopted by the US, which can stop anyone with links to the junta from accessing US banking systems.

The exception is France -- surprise, surprise -- which "remains a major investor" in Burma. And so, other than getting France on board -- a country with a long history of profiting off tyranny (Iraq anyone?) -- there is little more Europe can do.

The key will be to maintain pressure on Burma's neighbours, and especially on China and India, which have been propping up Burma's totalitarian regime all along. Until the U.S. and Europe can truly internationalize their efforts to isolate that horrendous regime, it won't much matter what they do, however admirable their words and deeds.

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