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The People’s Call for Sanctions

"Until we have a system that guarantees rule of law and basic democratic institutions, no amount of aid or investment will benefit our people. Profits from business enterprises will merely go toward enriching a small, already privileged elite." Aung San Suu Kyi, Business Week, 1998

Who’s call for sanctions?

The effectiveness of economic sanctions is a controversial issue but one that must be evaluated on a country by country basis. Many people supported the South-African anti-apartheid movement’s call for sanctions against their own country because it came from majority of South-Africans. The international community on the whole came to understand that foreign investment was propping up the White South-African elite more than anyone else in the country.

The case for sanctions in Burma is similar to that of South Africa and Burma’s democracy struggle has been called the South Africa of the 1990s by Bishop Desmond Tutu himself, who stated the following in 1993:

"Five years of constructive engagement have only given SLORC the confidence to maintain its repressive rule…International pressure can change the situation in Burma. Tough sanctions, not constructive engagement, finally brought the release of Nelson Mandela and the dawn of a new era in my country. This is the language that must be spoken with tyrants for sadly, it is the only language they understand."

Burma is in the unique situation of having a democratically elected body, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won 82% of the vote in the 1990 elections, calling for an end to foreign investment and trade in their country. When they began to see that it was mostly the junta and its cronies who were benefitting from foreign business, Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD urged the international community to cut off their commercial ties to Burma.

Military Grip on the Economy  (Are investments helping the Burmese people?)

International investment may help open societies and bring democratic change in some countries. In Burma, however, foreign investment helps perpetuate the cruelty of a repressive unelected junta. While the majority of Burmese, who are small farmers living in rural areas receive no benefit from foreign enterprise, foreign exchange allows the military to maintain its rule by force of arms.

Full foreign ownership of companies operating in Burma is forbidden and almost all large investment in Burma is carried out through joint ventures with the military regime, notably the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH). The UMEH is owned in part (40%) by the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Procurement, whose main function is to import armaments. The other 60% of UMEH shares is reserved for active and retired military officers, army-owned business enterprises and friendship societies, including veteran groups.

Therefore, foreign investment not only props up Burma’s dictatorship but it directly fuels the junta’s weapons purchases, which amount to at least 40% of the country’s estimated public sector spending. Moreover, the junta continues to expand its army of almost 500,000, the largest army in South-East Asia, despite the fact that Burma has no external enemies. At the same time, the regime still spends less than 2% on health care.

A Narco-Economy

As the world’s top heroin producing country (competing with Afghanistan), it is estimated that over half of Burma’s domestic economy is tied to the heroin trade as illicit drug profits are entrenched in the system. Local investment in hotels and real estate is linked to families of known drug lords, some of whom are under indictment by the United States, but are living freely and comfortably under Rangoon’s protective wing. The State Peace and Development Council has in effect made it legal to launder drug money through various policies and there is a plethora of evidence that the military is protecting, encouraging and benefitting immensely from profits from the heroin trade.


Press Releases/Statements and News

Burma Parliamentary delegation expected in Canada

CFOB statement on latest communal violence in Burma

What more can Canada do in Burma? - Tin Maung Htoo

Burma’s Kachin seek Canadian support

Staying true for human rights for all - Rebecca Wolsak

Why Inter Pares is wrong on Burma - Tin Maunng Htoo

CFOB concerned with Kachin conflicts in northern Burma

CFOB 2012 Annual Report released!

Statement on CFOB AGM on Dec. 15, 2012

Burmese Civil Society Organizations Dismayed by Inter Pares

CFOB AGM on Dec. 15 in Toronto

Minister Jason Kenney to Meet with Prominent Buddhist Monk

CFOB in Crisis with Rohingya in Burma

Baird Concerned about Renewed Violence in Rekhine State

Burmese Foreign Minister Queitly Visited to Canada

CFOB Policy Statement: “Navigating the thaw: Burma-Canada Relations in 2012 and beyond”

Over 70 Canadians and Burmese activists cleared from 'Blacklist'

Revised: Canada Calls for Peaceful Solution in Arakan state of Burma

Advocating humanitarian assistance to Kachin IDPs in Burma

Parliamentary Testimony with Aung Din (USCB)

Parliamentary Testimony with Tin Maung Htoo (CFOB)

Minister Kenney Surprises Burmese Community with Announcement

Minister Jason Kenney to meet with Burmese community leaders in Toronto

Policy Consultation on Burma

Burma Day - Celebrating 20th of CFOB

Long-time Burma supporter Brian John passed away

CFOB pleased by prisoners release but more reform needed

CFOB Welcomes Fine For Firm That Illegally Exported Plane to Burma

CFOB Welcomes U.S Secretary of States Visit to Burma

CFOB Saddend by the Loss of Jack Layton

Cross Canada bike ride for Burma reaching to final destination

Ivanhoe received US$103 million from Burma's copper mines

Burmese President accepts credentials of Canadian Ambassador to Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi supports UN commission of inquiry on Burma

Transfer of Ivanhoe's Burmese assets to weapons firm must be probed

Canada Sends Best Wishes to Aung San Suu Kyi on Her Birthday

66th Birthday Events of Aung San Suu Kyi in Canada

Suu Kyi to be honored on Canada Day in Côte Saint-Luc

Cross-Canada Bike Ride for Burma

Suu Kyi addresses to Conference on ‘Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict’

New Burmese Ambassador to Canada: a messenger for new regime in Burma?

Media coverage on detained Canadian in Burma

Suu Kyi to deliver video message at Carleton University

Carleton University to Honour Aung San Suu Kyi

Canada to Support 'Commission of Inquiry' on Burma's rights violations

Canada to Renew humanitarian support

Canada to welcome additional 1,300 Karen Refugees from Thai-Burma Border

CFOB Welcomes Opposition Party Calling for Economic Sanctions

Two events today in Toronto and Vancouver to mark DSSAK Day

CFOB applauds government and Parliament for granting Honorary Citizenship for Suu Kyi, and urges more action on Burma

CFOB welcomes throne speech to honor Suu Kyi with Honorary Citizenship

Canada Welcomes Statement by the United Nations Security Council on Burma

More news...

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