Phil Robertson is the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.
U.S. Policy Regarding Burma
Ruled by a series of harsh military regimes since 1962, Burma serves as a test case for U.S. policy on several fronts: human rights; a growing worldwide heroin epidemic; the role of U.S. state and local governments in relation to international trade policy and practice; forced labor, international labor standards, and the new prominence of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the era of globalization; and the role of multinational corporations in supporting dictatorships.
Though Washington viewed the country as a mere sideshow to U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, U.S. actions in Cambodia were decisive in leading to the destabilization of the neutral government under Prince Norodom Sihanouk and triggering a slow slide into more than two decades of violence.
A nonaligned, economically autarkic, one-party state under harsh military rule since 1962, Burma has metamorphosed into a test case for action on several fronts: human rights in Southeast Asia, international trade relations and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the growing worldwide heroin epidemic, and the role of foreign investors in supporting dictatorships.
As the country in the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) that leads the effort to seek rapid tariffs reductions, Indonesia is the darling of U.S. export industries.