Sanctions Against Burma Imports

source : LATimes

In a Jan. 11 commentary ("Myanmar Is an Easy Case to Make for Sanctions"), Robert L. Borosage argues that the United States should prohibit the import of Burmese products because the International Labor Organization has documented forced labor in Burma. This approach will not change the behavior and will only lead to more human suffering.

Shutting off imports and putting thousands out of work would not stop the forced labor documented by the ILO because that labor occurs in other sectors of the economy and in rural areas. Borosage concludes his appeal with the question: "If forced labor is not beyond the pale, then what is?"

Perhaps forced prostitution and forced starvation might fit the bill. Recent reports from Cambodia document young women turning to prostitution as the only means to survive after losing their apparel manufacturing jobs due to pressure from the anti-sweatshop lobby.

By attempting to fix one problem, do-gooders are fueling a worse one--in some cases condemning women to death by exposing them to HIV. Burma, moreover, has virtually no safety net for those who Borosage advocates putting out of work.


* * *

I sincerely thank Borosage for his comments on Burma. The Burmese junta is the most horrible regime in the world. I saw people herded away from markets at gunpoint to work as forced porters in the army. Many never came back. Families were broken apart, and it was so also with our hearts and bodies.

The U.S. government must take a moral leadership role in punishing the regime. Respect of human rights [is what] makes a man human. If the U.S. government places corporate interests over human rights, it will certainly violate the principle of a "government of the people, by the people and for the people." I beg the U.S. and the European Union to please take decisive steps to resolve Burma's agony.

Van Nuys