Monday, October 1, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi on the success of sanctions in Burma

Sanctions and boycotts would be tied to serious political dialogue. - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 

Aung San Suu Kyi at the San Francisco Freedom Forum (Photo by the author)
The debate on Cuba often degenerates into a conversation of sanctions versus dialogue. It is at best a failure of imagination. A more useful conversation would be one that combines strong sanctions and boycotts while pursuing dialogue to obtain a democratic opening with concrete measures. In a meeting with reporters and editors of The New York Times on September 26, 2012 Aung San Suu Kyi responded to the following two questions concerning sanctions in Burma and on whether or not they have been and how it has impacted the Burmese:

Q: Is it fair to say the sanctions worked?
A: Yes, I always say that sanctions work. Not in the way people think it did. Now the emphasis is on the economic effect of the sanctions, but I always quote the IMF by saying that for years IMF reports have consistently made the point that the sanctions have affected Burma’s economy very little and it was mismanagement that put us in a terrible mess. But partly, the regime started believing their own propaganda that sanctions are responsible for the ills of the country. This always happens. I think the eagerness to go ahead economically, I think the perception was that if you improve the economy, everything else would improve. I don’t subscribe to that view, I think you need political reforms as well as economic reforms. So the sanctions needed to be removed, because a lot of people saw them as an obstacle to progress.

Q: So the sanctions hurt ordinary Burmese but they helped evoke change?
A: I do not think sanctions hurt ordinary Burmese, as much as the IMF has gone into this and they have concluded that they did not hurt ordinary Burmese. If you remember, the garment industry had a setback after 2007 [when the U.S. prohibited imports] but it picked up very quickly… I think it had picked up within a little over a year.

The full transcript of the meeting is available here.

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