Leaning on Economics Sanctions: Will Sanctions on Myanmar Succeed?

By Isabella Gabriele

In a recent NYCFPA analysis of United States’ sanctions against Iran, the motives and results of economic sanctions on countries enacted by the United States were called to question. Were the reasonings for these sanctions valid, or were they power plays to keep the world order and uphold reputations? The United States acted alone and problematically in the sanctions against Iran, with pleas from other nations to suspend. When these pleas were not answered, the sanctions crushed the domestic Iranian economy and hurt the wellbeing of its citizens. The sanctions were not even successful in their attempts to stop Iranian international business activity. This solitary action by the United States did not accomplish its intended goal. But are the recent sanctions against Myanmar different? This author would argue yes, for two reasons, the world’s united front and the protection of democracy.

On February 1st, 2021 the military of Myanmar, known as the junta, overthrew the democratic government headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi has since been taken into custody by the junta on phony charges, while other democratic leaders flea in fear of the same fate. The coup’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, has been ruling by fear and intimidation, with particular focus and cruelty directed towards Myanmar’s minority groups. This continues to be an international crisis and has resulted in many countries around the world condemning the junta and imposing economic sanctions on the country, as reported by the BBC.

As was stated, these economic sanctions have the potential to be successful for two reasons: world unity and the protection of democracy. Different from the sanctions imposed on Iran, the United States is not trying to impose change in Myanmar alone, they have the support of countries everywhere. This type the sustained pressure from world powers including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada will not be able to be ignored by the junta and the leaders of the coup for long. Reason for this being almost all financial transactions of the world are done with U.S. dollars and through financial institutions of theirs and other Western nations. The sanctions have the potential to dry up any foreign investment and funds into Myanmar if the junta does not comply.

The second reason, the protection of democracy, is the moral reason behind these economic sanctions. It is simple and easily defined, as opposed to the reasonings for the Iranian sanctions. This embodies a proper reason for a valid sanction, at least from the point of view of a democratic nation like the United States. The United States has been a “defender of democracy” since the end of World War II and has continued its campaign on every habitable continent since. This coup by the junta was not going to be an exemption from this campaign; The United States and the world’s other democratic nations would of course play their hand to reestablish Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratic party, the National League for Democracy.

Economic sanctions not only need to have a solid reasoning and a moral heading, but they need to be supported by more than just one nation [potentially angling for power]. The United States’ sanctions against Iran lacked these qualities, and thus have had minimal success. The main differences of the economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar could be the reasons for their success: the combined world pressure as well as the importance of democracy to so many nations.






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