Myanmar and the argument for engagement : a clash of contending moralities
Roberts, Christopher B.
Date of Issue2006
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
The domestic environment of Myanmar, in the wake of half a century of civil war and instability, has not shown any sign of any improvement. The Generals remain in control; the health and education systems are collapsing; and the people in the borderlands live under some of the worst conditions of poverty imaginable. Meanwhile, a clash of contesting moralities has emerged through a growing fissure (at least until recently) between those in favour of engagement (ASEAN) and those wanting to isolate and sanction (the West). Of these contesting moralities the most damaging has been economic isolation. Today, Myanmar receives less Official Development Assistance (ODA) per capita than any other developing country in East Asia. Laos, by contrast, is argueably little better in terms of governance yet it receives nineteens times more ODA per capita. Nevertheless, during the course of the past two decades neither engagement nor isolation has produced a tangible shift towards better governance and/or democracy. Through an analysis of the consequences of isolation and istability in Myanmar this paper argues that the international community needs to overcome its policy divide by embracing a combination of diplomatic pressure and targeted engagement designed to enhance, in the long-term, the security and stability of Myanmar and its people. Given the dire nature of the economy in Myanmar, large scale aid packages designed to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and also build the capacity of the state need to be implemented. For the purpose of capacity building and engagement, broad sweeping sanctions targeting the economy in general should be abolished while targeted sanctions (directed at the leadership) should have clear benchmarks for their removal. While the idea of even limited engagement should have clear benchmarks for their removal. While the idea of even limited engagement may be repugnant to some; the analysis will show that the 'middle path' advocated by this paper represents the best sustainable option to resolve the crisis in Myanmar.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science::Public administration::Asia
RSIS Working Papers ; 108/06
Nanyang Technological University