Thibaut Bara, visiting researcher at the Center for Economic and Social Development of Rangoon, explains, in an interview with the World, that the current impact of foreign sanctions against generals is “Psychological”.
What is the economic situation in Burma, are we feeling the impact of the sanctions?
Three months after the coup, the economy remains at a standstill. The state apparatus is still not under the control of the generals, electricity bills or taxes cannot even be collected, not to mention the economic slowdown due to Covid. It is still too early to judge the real impact of foreign sanctions. However, it will undoubtedly be limited in view of the relative weakness of Anglo-Saxon and European interests in the Burmese economy. [en 2020 le commerce entre les Etats-Unis et la Birmanie ne représentait que 1,2 milliard de dollars, contre 11 milliards avec la Chine et 3,4 milliards avec l’UE en 2019] and the targeted nature of sanctions that do not relate to trade or investment generally.
Few American or European companies should be concerned, a certain number have already broken their partnerships like the French Voltalia. EDF has withdrawn from a dam project. The German company Giesecke + Devrient, active in the manufacture of banknotes, and Puma Energy, a kerosene distributor, have suspended their operations. The current impact of sanctions is psychological. Despite exploding poverty and unemployment, the state of mind of the population is civil war. Any setback, even symbolic, against the generals is a victory which helps the resistance to maintain hope despite the brutal repression.
Conversely, the timidity and slowness of European sanctions in particular feed a growing despair vis-à-vis Western countries and their ability to defend the values they display. The case of Total, the country’s leading private investor and major source of income for the military regime, by continuing its operations, is seen as real strategic support for the military dictatorship.
Are the boycott movements inside the country producing effects?
Boycott campaigns in Burma are widely followed, Myanmar Beer, a true icon of the country’s bars and restaurants, is now boycotted almost everywhere because Myanmar Brewery is a subsidiary of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (MEHL), one of two military conglomerates. Only the ashtrays and beer taps with the logo are left, hardly any beer is sold that benefits the military, the same goes for Ruby cigarettes.
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