BRUSSELS – The possible reintroduction of EU trade sanctions against Myanmar would “make no sense on any level,” according to a leading campaign group. Burma Campaign UK made the comments in the wake of fresh reports that the EU is considering stripping the former military dictatorship of its tariff-free access to the world’s largest trading block.
Sanctions, which would have major impact on Myanmar’s garment export sector, have become a very realistic prospect since the release of a damning UN rap sheet in August.
The UN report concluded that Myanmar’s military leaders, including its top commander, need to be further investigated and potentially prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against Rohingya Muslims. The report followed a fact-finding mission and arrived in the wake of a violent crackdown last year which forced more than half a million refugees to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Since the report, the prospect of the restoration of sanctions by the EU – and potentially the US – has been firmly back on the agenda. Reuters is now reporting that sanctions are under discussion at the European Commission level but would “not come into effect immediately, giving the EU leverage to stop … ethnic cleansing of Muslim Rohingya.”
In theory, a six-month review process on whether to impose trade sanctions could be reversed if Myanmar met humanitarian and democratic targets – a prospect which seems unlikely given the recent chequered history of the Myanmar leadership.
“[Sanctions] make no sense on any level,” said MarkFarmaner, director of BCUK. “There’s almost 20 things they could do to target the military that might make an impact. Instead they are considering something that no-one is calling for.”
Apparel brands sourcing from Myanmar include Gap, H&M and M&S as well as more than a dozen others which have re-established business ties with the country since US sanctions were lifted.