05 Oct 2018

Who will suffer most from EU sanctions on Myanmar over Rohingya crisis?

To impose sanctions for the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas, or not to impose: that is the question the EU faces. The first option can hurt ordinary citizens and allow China to dominate Myanmar, but the second means further atrocities.

Karolina Zbytniewska
Karolina Zbytniewska Euractiv, Europe
Source: Euractiv
Who will suffer most from EU sanctions on Myanmar over Rohingya crisis? - NewsMavens
Aung San Suu Kyi, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Over 1 million Rohingya people -- a predominantly Muslim ethnic group -- lived in Buddhist Myanmar until the atrocities spiked in August 2017. Since then approximately 25,000 Rohingyas have been killed and over 700,000 have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. This humanitarian disaster followed an attack by a small insurgent Rohingya group on Myanmar security forces, which is used as a justification for a de facto ethnic cleansing. But nothing can justify “killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages” -- as the UN report lists.

This tragedy also reveals the tricky nature of sanctions.

Currently, the EU considers trade sanctions in the wake of ineffectiveness of lesser, targeted sanctions against mostly individual officials.

New sanctions would hit Myanmar’s major textile industry which would also put at risk thousands of jobs in this poor South-East Asian country, weakening the overall economy.

That in turn might translate into giving up this country to the embrace of China. However, doing nothing means a continuation of violence under the watch of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The EU is in a tough situation, however, genocide -- as the UN calls it -- must be stopped and punished. And the clear conditionality of painful sanctions might motivate Myanmar’s authorities to meet humanitarian and democratic targets. Hopefully.

Details from the story:

  • Until now, the EU has imposed travel bans and asset freezes on several members of the Myanmar military but not on the country’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who the United Nations said should be prosecuted along with five others for genocide and crimes against humanity.
  • Myanmar rejects the UN report as “one-sided”.
  • European firms sourcing apparel from Myanmar include retailers Adidas, C&A, H&M, Inditex, Next and Primark.
  • Myanmar’s exports to the European Union were worth €1.56 billion in 2017, nearly 10 times their value in 2012, after which the bloc gave Myanmar “Everything But Arms” trade status. That status means it can sell any goods tariff-free to the bloc, except weapons.
  • Myanmar’s clothing industry is its top export earner after oil and gas, generating more than $2 billion in exports and 450,000 jobs last year, according to industry association MGMA.
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