Peter Popham: The scramble for questionable riches begins

 

Share
Related Topics

Mr Cameron, it must be said, is no slouch: in announcing that sanctions on Burma are to be not lifted but "suspended", he succeeded in saving everyone's face while at the same time throwing almost everyone off balance.

This was not on the cards. Harmless, merely humiliating or vexatious measures, it was expected, would be removed at a stroke, while those that stop evil, bloodsucking warmongers from climbing into bed with captains of British industry were to be retained – at least until Burma was a slightly more plausible democracy. At that point, perhaps with the National League for Democracy in power and President Suu's face on the banknotes, they, too, could go.

But heaven won't wait. Mr Cameron has used his whistlestop tour of Burma to change the sanctions game for good.

All sanctions – except, "obviously", as he put it, those banning arms sales – are to be suspended. All the UK businesses that have dreamed of digging out Burmese jade or removing oil and gas or teak and ebony, or setting up trainer-making sweatshops to undercut those of Cambodia, need dream no more. At the end of the month, at its annual deliberation on what to do about Burma, the European Union will back the Cameron plan, and the scramble can begin.

But then what? If the sanctions are only "suspended", when might they be reimposed? Are there to be no benchmarks at all? What about the corruption, the child soldiers, the theft of land, the war still fomenting in the far north? The answer will be a Europe-wide shrug: we do lots of questionable things in lots of questionable places already. Burma can join our club.

But what does it do for Aung San Suu Kyi?

"I support the idea of suspension," she said, adding that if those against reform refuse to play ball, "then sanctions could come back".

But this is a tricky transition for Ms Suu Kyi, the newly elected MP for Kawhmu. Under unprecedented pressure from the regime and her international friends, Suu Kyi has been forced to take her party out on a limb. She has gambled everything on President Thein Sein staying the course and backing her plans for change to the Constitution. Perhaps she had no choice in the matter, but if the process fails and Burma slides back into its bad old ways,  the big losers will be Suu Kyi and her party. 

Peter Popham is the author of The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
With a record turnout forecast, Thursday's poll will be unlike any election Scotland, or anywhere else in the UK, has experienced  

Scottish independence: There's been as much hatred as hope. But this is democracy at its best

Andreas Whittam Smith
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week