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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Sanctions' limited effect on Burma
The US has issued sanctions against the Burmese leadership, and the international community is also considering what action to take over the recent bloody crackdown on protesters.

But, as the BBC's Andrew Harding wrote for this website in July, Burma is already subject to sanctions from the West - with limited effect. Here we reproduce his report.

Burma's military chief, Than Shwe (file photo)
Burma's military leadership is already subject to sanctions

For a snapshot of how Burma's military rulers are coping with Western sanctions, linger at the bar of any major hotel in Rangoon.

True, you will not hear many American accents.

But look around you - Russian arms dealers, South Korean and French oilmen, Singaporean consultants and Chinese bankers are all mingling over cocktails with their Burmese counterparts.

In the lobby, crowds of German and Italian tourists head out to explore the city's sumptuous temples and neglected backstreets.

Almost 20 years after the European Union and the United States first began to impose sanctions on Burma in the hope of persuading the military to relinquish power, the generals who rule this brutalised, impoverished country are finding plenty of alternative sources of investment.

Burma's two giant neighbours, China and India, are leading the way. Both are competing for influence here - diplomatic, military and economic.

Human rights issues appear to be a low priority.

Rather, they want access to Burma's giant off-shore gas fields, and to its natural resources - timber and minerals.

Chinese tourists and traders are pouring in to cities like Mandalay, buying up huge chunks of real estate. Many other countries are fighting for their share of the spoils.

Neighbouring Thailand has signed hydro-electric deals. Russia recently agreed to build the generals a nuclear reactor. And North Korea appears to be interested in arms deals.

Economic impact

As for Europe - over the years the EU's arms and trade embargoes have been steadily tightened and formalised in response to the military government's escalating human rights abuses.

The EU has a ban on arms exports to Burma, a limited investment ban, and a visa ban for senior officials and their families.

A monk in Burma sheds tears for those monks that have been arrested - 26/09/07
The crackdown on protesters in Burma has alarmed the world

But campaigners say these measures are weak and ineffectual, and fail to prevent, for example, France's Total oil company from doing business with the generals. The US's position is much tougher.

Since 1997, all new investment in Burma has been banned.

There is no doubt that this has had a substantial economic impact, but it has failed to produce any political concessions from the government.

Some commentators argue that Europe and America should move away from sanctions and towards a policy of engagement with the military authorities.


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