Whilst the detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy are said to be in favour of maintaining international sanctions against the Burmese military junta, many argue that the existing ones have had no effect on the government's anti-democratic stance, and have only contributed to the suffering of the Burmese people. A panel of experts debate the effectiveness of the sanctions, and suggest alternatives.
Arguing in favour of the motion are Derek Tokin, Frank Smithuis, and Thant Myint-U.
Derek Tonkin proposes the motion by suggesting that, whilst the sanctions against Burma are supposed to be targeting the regime, they are making no difference. He calls for all sanctions against Burma (except the arms embargo) to be lifted, as they are harming Burma's ordinary citizens more than they are harming those in power.
Frank Smithuis draws on his experience of working in Burma to suggest that sanctions have had no effect - only negative side-effects. Not only have trade sanctions led to a decrease in jobs in the textiles and tourist industries, but development and humanitarian aid has also decreased, leading to increased poverty and disease.
Thant Myint-U outlines how sanctions have decimated 'employment-generating' industries such as textile manufacture and tourism in Burma. The upshot of these sanctions is that the poorest people and the middle classes have suffered, not the generals. If the West continues to isolate Burma, it is China who will shape the future of the country, and Myint-U questions whether the Chinese are the most desirable state to be in that position.
Arguing against the motion are Benedict Rogers, Mark Farmaner, and Brad Adams.
Benedict Rogers outlines the shocking brutality that the Burmese government is capable of, and suggests that lifting sanctions would send out the wrong message to the Burmese government. We should only lift sanctions, he says, when the government agree to measures such as releasing political prisoners and declaring a ceasefire on the ethnic nationalities. He proposes more targeted sanctions - on oil, gas, and financial institutions - to hit the generals where it really hurts: in their pockets.
Mark Farmaner points to the strong support that sanctions have from Burma charities and the Burmese population themselves. Sanctions were originally introduced in response to human rights abuses, and are still in place because these abuses have not abated. He also points out that there are no sanctions on humanitarian aid – levels of aid to Burma have decreased since 1988 because of fears that it will fall into the hands of the corrupt government.
Brad Adams acknowledges the failure of previous sanctions such as America's trade embargo, but says that what advocates of sanctions are calling for are more specific measures designed to force the generals to the negotiating table. Adams also advocates putting pressure on China and India to enforce sanctions on Burma.
First vote: Agree 106, Disagree 98, Undecided 91
Final vote: Agree 120, Disagree 157, Undecided 23
The motion was defeated by 37 votes.