Are sanc­tions a wise form of action?

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Leonard Beech

Last week Marzuki Darus­man, head of the United Na­tions factfind­ing mis­sion (FFM) on the sit­u­a­tion in Myan­mar called on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, to cut off all fi­nan­cial and other sup­port to the coun­try's mil­i­tary. The move once again high­lights the fail­ure of the U.N. to comes to terms with the fact that there is very lit­tle the body can do in the face of di­vided in­ter­na­tional strate­gies on deal­ing with the coun­try.

The FFM Chair­per­son Marzuki Darus­man said the mea­sures were needed be­cause Myan­mar has not done enough to re­solve the na­tion’s con­flicts and pro­tect hu­man rights, in­clud­ing those of over a mil­lion eth­nic Ro­hingya civil­ians who have been forced into ex­ile.

“There has been no move­ment to­ward a res­o­lu­tion of the cri­sis,” Darus­man said at the con­clu­sion of a 10-day visit to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thai­land and In­done­sia. “The sit­u­a­tion is at a to­tal stand­still.”

The FFM had sub­mit­ted a 444-page re­port, to the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil in Septem­ber 2018. It fo­cused on the mil­i­tary’s ‘clear­ance op­er­a­tions’ and al­leged abuses in Rakhine State in 2017 that forced the ex­o­dus of more than 700,000 peo­ple in two months. Both mil­i­tary and civil­ian sides of Myan­mar’s govern­ment have per­sis­tently de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and dis­claim any re­spon­si­bil­ity for crimes un­der in­ter­na­tional law.

The re­port also con­demned eth­nic armed or­ga­ni­za­tions for vi­o­lat­ing in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law and com­mit­ting hu­man rights abuses.

The FFM’s man­date ex­pires in Septem­ber 2019 It will hand over its in­for­ma­tion, doc­u­men­ta­tion and ev­i­dence to the new In­de­pen­dent In­ves­tiga­tive Mech­a­nism on Myan­mar, es­tab­lished by the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil to fa­cil­i­tate and ex­pe­dite fair and in­de­pen­dent crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against per­pe­tra­tors of crimes un­der in­ter­na­tional law in Myan­mar.

Darus­man said that op­er­a­tions con­ducted by Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces in Rakhine State in 2017 were not iso­lated in­ci­dents. Rather, they “were the re­sult of struc­tural prob­lems fu­elled by the ab­sence of a po­lit­i­cal and le­gal sys­tem that is will­ing to ac­com­mo­date di­ver­sity. This is an is­sue af­fect­ing eth­nic mi­nori­ties through­out Myan­mar,” Darus­man said. “Any so­lu­tions should di­rectly ad­dress the struc­tural prob­lems.”

The FFM re­it­er­ated its in­ter­est in en­gag­ing in di­a­logue with the Myan­mar govern­ment to ad­vance ac­count­abil­ity, en­sure jus­tice and pro­mote the right to safe, vol­un­tary and dig­ni­fied re­turn of those who fled.

While at­tempts to pro­tect hu­man rights in the coun­try are par­tic­u­larly hon­ourable, such a move in­clud­ing iso­lat­ing mil­i­tary lead­ers and im­pos­ing more sanc­tions are un­likely to have much of an im­pact. As seen in the past, dur­ing suc­ces­sive mil­i­tary gov­ern­ments, at­tempt to iso­late the govern­ment did lit­tle to change the sit­u­a­tion with Myan­mar turn­ing to China and other coun­tries for sup­port.

Chris Si­doti, a hu­man rights lawyer and mem­ber of the mis­sion, was quot­ing as say­ing, “The ex­pe­ri­ence with com­pre­hen­sive sanc­tions in the 1990s and early 2000s was that they hurt the peo­ple of Myan­mar with­out af­fect­ing the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship.”

In ad­di­tion, af­ter the elec­tion of the Na­tional League for Democ­racy, many for­eign com­pa­nies swamped Myan­mar with in­vest­ment. These com­pa­nies are un­likely to com­ply with the U.N. call to di­vest from work­ing with the mil­i­tary’s Myan­mar Eco­nomic Cor­po­ra­tion (MEC) and Union of Myan­mar Eco­nomic Hold­ings (UMEH).

While those re­spon­si­ble for crimes must be held ac­count­able, fur­ther iso­lat­ing the coun­try is un­likely to see that out­come. In­stead it could see a re­turn to the prob­lems Chris Si­doti re­ferred to in the 1990s and 2000s, in which those who are most likely to suf­fer are not the per­pe­tra­tors of abuses but rather the pop­u­la­tion as a whole.

Photo: EPA

Ques­tions have been raised about the ef­fec­tive­ness of sanc­tions.

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