Published on PINR, by Gideon Lundholm, 18 October 2007.
U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari has begun a tour of Myanmar’s neighbors to gain their support in putting political pressure on the government …
… Conclusion: China is often cited as the only vector of leverage for placing pressure on the isolated government in Myanmar. Trade data shows that there are other potential avenues to follow which may not be as politically palatable. While there are other important considerations beyond the economic, including strategic, political and the wider context of trade within A.S.E.A.N., China’s bilateral trade partnership is not the largest revenue earner for the government. When considering the relative size of the trade numbers in relation to China’s overall trade statistics, it is possible that China’s influence and interest within the country has been overstated, especially recently in the context of the protests.
What is certain is that the combination of resource royalties, the recent windfall of oil and gas discoveries and regional trading partners that are capitalizing on the vacuum created by European and U.S. trade restrictions has allowed the Myanmar government to survive and maintain the political status quo within the country. For actors trying to find ways to influence the government, the importance of trading partners within A.S.E.A.N., especially Thailand, should not be overlooked.
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