In his article for Foreign Affairs Nickolay Anguelov explains the longer term effects of U.S. sanctions on Myanmar. Its been nearly two years since the United States lifted its sanctions on the Asian state. The sanctions were lifted on the promise of reform; however, things have only gotten worse. Myanmar President Thein Sein has oppressed the press, freedom of assembly, and religious minorities more than ever. The sanctions were extended in 2014 under President Obama after a World Bank report of the oppression by Thein Sein. The member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations actually supported Thein Sein and his oppression because it gave them better trade deals. The sanctions gave them a protected trade position with the resource rich Myanmar. The 20 years of sanctions allowed China, India, Thailand, and Malaysia to establish their trading network in Myanmar with their own Multinational Corporations, and accounted for 90% of Myanmar's trade. The money from these MNCs helped fuel the Myanmar regime and the elites who profited from it. All trade deals had to go through state licensing agencies who also acted as political parties as well as appoint township associations who controlled the deals with the MNCs. The sanctions only strengthened the licensing organisations as it allowed them to secretly give good deals to the nations still willing to trade with Myanmar.
This goes along with our lesson on sanctions in a variety of ways. First we discussed what sanctions are meant to do. They are meant to be a tool of either deterrence or coercion. In the case of Myanmar the United States was attempting to coerce the government into making reforms towards a more democratic regime. We also learned why sanctions are effective. For sanctions to truly be effective they need to cause economic pain to the state on the receiving end of them. This is why they were not effective in the case of Myanmar. Thein Sein and his partners were able to find other nations still willing to trade with them and the elites grew in power. This also goes with the selectorate theory we discussed in class. The sanctions allowed Thein Sein to keep his winning coalition small, and certain people were able to stay happy and rich during the sanctions. The other way the United States sanctions were a failure is because they were unilateral. During the lesson on sanctions we learned that for sanctions to be more effective they need to be multilateral to have a better chance of inflicting the necessary pain on the state receiving them.