'As trade between Myanmar and the US and EU is limited compared to China, Japan, Thailand and Singapore, there won't be a significant impact on Myanmar's economy'
A Myanmar top official has said the targeted sanctions against Myanmar by the United States and European Union “is not a good sign.”
In the wake of the Rohingya crisis, the US and EU are considering targeted sanctions against the Myanmar military over their offensive that led to an exodus of over half a million Rohingya.
Those sanctions, if imposed, could set the economy back after years of progress, writes The Myanmar Times (TMT).
Permanent Secretary for Myanmar Ministry of Planning and Finance U Tun Tun Naing said: “There have been various rumors of targeted sanctions against Myanmar. It is not a good sign. Sanctioning a country prevents it from competing economically with others. They are blocking our rights to freely do business and rights to develop the country and this is not good.”
According to TMT, if the sanctions are imposed on Myanmar, it is “unlikely to have a direct impact on the economy due to low levels of trade and cooperation, they could derail the country’s push for peace among the various ethnicities.”
However, the report also says the sanctions “will have negative consequences” on foreign direct investments (FDI) and domestic economic reform.
According to a report on the Reuters, two Washington-based US officials with knowledge of the Trump administration’s Myanmar deliberations said targeted sanctions against commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and several other generals, as well as leaders of ethnic Rakhine Buddhist militias accused of torching Rohingya villages, were under consideration.
Such sanctions – if decided on – would likely entail US asset freezes, bans on travel to the United States, prohibitions against Americans doing business with them and other unspecified penalties. Washington was moving cautiously as it consulted with governments in Europe, Japan and Southeast Asia, the US officials said.
TMT cited the spokesperson for Myanmar State Counsellor’s office U Zaw Htay, who said: “No matter what kind of sanctions, [the West] should consider not affecting our efforts to transition to democracy, pursue internal peace and raise the standards of our people’s lives.”
Economic adviser to Myanmar’s National League for Democracy government, U Ye Min Oo, said: “As such, the West’s intention of applying targeted sanctions on Myanmar’s military could result in internal division and disunity.”
He added: “As Myanmar is still struggling to develop its economy, sanctions at this time will only hinder the government’s attempts to improve democracy and human rights. Therefore, sanctions should not be applied during this time. No one will gain anything from it, and it will cause disunity.”
“All the people and ethnicities live together in this country. We are all working together for the development of the country. We are going to walk towards the future together. So, if a super power tries to impose selective sanctions, it means they are trying to divide our nation. No one will benefit from this,” he said.
U Tun Tun Naing also said: “Socio-economic impacts due to sanctions depend on whether there is high-level cooperation with the countries involved. As trade between Myanmar and the US and EU is limited compared to China, Japan, Thailand and Singapore, there won’t be a significant impact on Myanmar’s economy.”
He added: “Despite expectations that US FDI would enter Myanmar after US sanctions were lifted, it has now been two and a half years and FDI has not materialised as much as expected. Meanwhile, Myanmar already has strong trade ties with its partners in Asia.”
“Still, we need to be friendly with all nations. When a nation [imposes a sanction against us], we have to reveal the truth of the situation in Rakhine. The sanctions shouldn’t happen and to avoid this, we need to report the actual situation,” he further said.
Mentionable, according to the Reuters interviews with more than a dozen diplomats and government officials based in Washington, Yangon and Europe revealed that punitive measures aimed specifically at top generals were among a range of options being discussed in response to theRohingya crisis.
Nothing has yet been decided and Washington and Brussels may decide to hold off for now, the sources said. There are also discussions about increasing aid for violence-riven Rakhine state.
The active discussion of sanctions – not even on the table a month ago – shows how the dramatic exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar’s northwest is putting pressure on Western policymakers to take action.
While much of the outcry overseas has focused on Nobel laureate and Myanmar’s national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, few Western diplomats see an alternative to her leadership. Suu Kyi does not control the military, which still wields considerable power under Myanmar’s army-written constitution.
The EU Foreign Ministers Council will discuss Myanmar on October 16, although officials do not expect any move on sanctions that soon. Danish minister for development cooperation, Ulla Tornaes, told Reuters that Copenhagen had been working to get the crisis on the agenda, “with the wish to put further pressure on the military.”
A senior Yangon-based European diplomat also said Western countries were coordinating their response to the crisis and were in agreement that it was the military, and specifically the commander-in-chief, who needed to be targeted in any punitive action.