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NAYPYIDAW – Garment exports from Myanmar are on the up despite ongoing political unrest and allegations of ethnic cleansing in the country. Statistics released by Myanmar’s Ministry of Information show the country achieved US$1.6 billion from Cut-Make-Pack (CMP) garment exports in the first 11 months of the 2017 fiscal year, a sharp increase of US$1 billion over the same period of a year earlier. The CMP garment sector plays a significant role in contributing to Myanmar’s economic development, ranking as the country’s third largest export category.

Following several years of economic sanctions, in 2014 the US began to soften its stance with Myanmar to signal its support for ongoing political reform after decades of military rule. Since then, many of the world’s leading apparel brands have made tentative steps in the country, led initially by Gap and H&M and followed by the likes of Primark and Marks & Spencer.

In 2016, Myanmar, also known as Burma, swore in its first democratically-elected government in over 50 years.

However, political turmoil and infighting continues to dog the country, which looks in increasing danger of sliding back into the political and economic wildnerness. Just recently United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters the US is deeply concerned by reports of atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces, and called for investigations into a humanitarian crisis in which hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh.

A report from Human Rights Watch has also claimed local security forces have committed widespread rape against women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch. In a 37-page report, HRW documents the Burmese military’s gang rape of Rohingya women and girls and further acts of violence, cruelty, and humiliation.

While it has been suggested the US would consider individual sanctions against people found responsible for the ethnical violence in Myanmar, it will not – at present – be looking to reintroduce broad-based economic sanctions against the entire country.

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