Leading article: A test of Burma's sincerity

Share
Related Topics

The emerging new US strategy of greater engagement with Burma represents the biggest shift in Washington's policy since the imposition of sanctions more than a decade ago, in protest at the trampling of democracy by the military regime, and its flagrant abuses of human rights.

In many respects this fresh approach, a logical extension of the Obama administration's willingness to reach out to longstanding American foes like Iran and Cuba, makes sense. Sanctions have manifestly failed to achieve their stated goal. Burma's generals have themselves apparently signalled they would welcome a thaw, while the change of policy in Washington has the support of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the country's democratic movement, who remains under house arrest. Moreover, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pointed out, shunning all contact with Burma makes it even harder to tackle a host of problems in the region, ranging from refugees, narcotics trafficking and disease control to the risk of nuclear proliferation, embodied by the junta's growing links with North Korea.

Under the new policy, Washington would add carrots to existing sticks. Sanctions, especially "smart sanctions" targeted at senior figures in the regime, would remain in force. But the US will offer greater humanitarian aid – building on the limited assistance provided after last year's Cyclone Nargis that devastated Burma, killing 150,000 people or more – as well as diplomatic engagement. If the regime takes genuine steps to improve its lamentable human rights record and foster democracy, then the sanctions could be eased. The operative word here however is "genuine". The acid test of the junta's sincerity will be the multiparty elections promised in 2010.

If the regime is seeking improved relations, little sign emerged from the speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly by General Thein Sein. The Burmese Prime Minister warned that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. The odds are that the xenophobic regime will blatantly rig these elections to prolong military rule.

The US is right to stretch out a hand to Burma. But if the carrots are ignored, then Washington should be ready to wield an even stronger stick.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

 

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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