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Analysis: Violence Follows Myanmar Sanctions

Council on Foreign Relations

Updated: September 26, 2007
Prepared by: Jayshree Bajoria

Violence has erupted in Myanmar with the country's ruling military junta cracking down on anti-government protesters. Despite reports (BBC) of police beating up Buddhist monks and firing at protesters and imposing a dawn to dusk curfew in the two largest cities, protests have continued. Violence comes in the wake of new sanctions from Washington. U.S. President George Bush, in his speech at the UN general assembly, announced fresh visa restrictions and financial sanctions against the regime he accused of imposing a “nineteen-year reign of fear.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged the junta to exercise restraint (PDF).

Protests that began last month to address the issue of economic hardship have now taken the form of a wider movement demanding democratic reform (BBC) and the end of military rule. Until now, the ruling junta had shown uncharacteristic restraint (IHT) in its actions against the protesters. Such behavior was rare when compared to the bloody crackdown in 1988 that eventually led to the suppression of budding pro-democracy movements.

Some experts attributed the military’s restraint to the influence of its chief ally (The Australian) and economic partner, China. Others think that the junta had also been holding back because monks are highly revered in the country and any violence against them may spark a public outcry.

The protests come at a time when the military regime is trying to alter its image. It recently wrapped up a fourteen-year constitutional convention, which the government cites as proof of its sincerity (Myanmar Times) in pursuing reforms. The Economist disputes this conclusion, however, saying the convention only further entrenched the regime’s rule. Myanmar’s disturbances also revive concerns in the United Nations Security Council, which earlier this year took a vote on a draft resolution pushed by the US to put pressure on Myanmar’s government.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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