The Foreign Service Journal, November 2009

10 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / N O V E M B E R 2 0 0 9 Meanwhile, the administration has moved ahead to engage Rangoon offi- cially. In the context of the U.N. Gen- eral Assembly gathering in September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at- tended a meeting of the Group of Friends of Burma, established by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Camp- bell met Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein, the most senior official to attend the UNGA since 1995. In late summer, in an apparent ef- fort to encourage the opening, the Burmese government released some 119 political prisoners (out of an esti- mated 2,000). Back in June, however, the junta again arrested and convicted opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on security charges stemming from the in- cident in May involving Yettaw. She was sentenced to an additional 18 months of house arrest, ensuring that she will not be involved in the election campaign scheduled for next year. The junta is clearly determined to avoid a repeat of 1990, when Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory. Whether or not easing sanctions will have a positive effect is a subject of continuing debate. Advocates argue that without Western parties to trade with, Burmese businesses will be forced into closer connections with forces that are unresponsive to U.S. in- terests. Rangoon already deals mainly with China, Russia and North Korea. But the country also trades with India and South Korea, and its ties with less democratic trading partners are not ironclad. A recent report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, for instance, dispells fears of a Burmese nuclear pro- gram aided by North Korea ( www.oc tional_3/No_Proof_of_Secret_Myn mar_Nuclear_Program.shtml ). And Beijing has expressed its displeas- ure with Rangoon over continued fight- ing with ethnic minorities in northern Burma that has pushed thousands of refugees into China ( www.reuters. com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSPEK29 1010 ). Journalist Brian McCartan con- cludes in a recent Asia Times article that dropping sanctions may slightly ease the population’s suffering. But, he adds, the policy shift “would further en- rich and entrench some of the region’s most controversial business groups” ( _Asia/KH26Ae01.html ). In 2008, Transparency International ranked Burma as the second-most corrupt na- tion in the world ( www.transparency. org/news_room/in_focus/2008/cpi2 008/cpi_2008_table ). And some ana- lysts point out the rampant corruption, along with ineffective governance, had hobbled the country even before the 1997 sanctions were imposed. To follow these developments on- line, tune in to the voices of those in Burma working from the underground for democracy ( www.burmablogg ) , the words of Burmese offi- cials ( ) and the analysis of country experts ( , asia/myanmarburma ). And for background on the sanctions, visit the Council on Foreign Relations Web site ( 14385/ ml?breadcrumb=%2Fregion%2F2 97%2Fburmamyanmar ). ■ This edition of Cybernotes was com- piled by Editorial Intern Mark Hay. C Y B E R N O T E S WWW.FSJOURNAL.ORG When contacting an advertiser, kindly mention the Foreign Service Journal. Click on the Marketplace tab on the marquee AFSPA AKA American Public University CIGNA Dental Clements International Cort Furniture Diplomatic Auto. Sales Georgetown Suites Hirshorn Company, The SDFCU Strategic Studies Quarterly WJD