A report on the weekend
says that EU foreign ministers are set to prolong sanctions against Myanmar when they meet today (although they also say they are ready to ease them and hold high-level talks if there is "genuine progress"). Genuine progress looks unlikely, which begs the question of why the EU is holding firm with a strategy that isn't working (and is looking less likely to work with every passing year).
If sanctions aren't working, then surely the time has come to i) determine why they're not working and ii) develop a new strategy.
The main reason sanctions aren't working is that unlike the EU, China and ASEAN countries see no reason why they should not invest in Myanmar; for every Western firm pressured to divest (or forced not to invest in the first place), there are numerous others in Asia that are under no such pressure. Unfortunately, the premise upon which sanctions are based (that economic power still resides exclusively with Western countries) just isn't true any more. And that isn't about to change back any time soon.
If that's true, then the EU foreign ministers will have to at some point rethink why they are prolonging sanctions. In the absence of "genuine progress", is it not worth considering whether targeted investment might achieve a better result. I know that talking of lifting sanctions is tantamount to support for the generals in some circles, but it's not as if EU companies don't invest in places with bad human rights records. And it's generally conceded that in supply chains at least there have been some improvements in the rights workers enjoy resulting from EU (and other) companies raising expectations of supplier workplace standards. Would this be possible in Myanmar?
I think it's time for a change. Unfortunately the old way is not only broken, nobody seems willing to fix it...