There are good ideas and then there are bad ideas. It is however a matter of perspective whether one sees an idea in the positive and another person views it in the negative. Of course most often than not we would weigh the pros and cons of an idea to ascertain if it is beneficial, practical and achievable. Recently Rafizi Ramli along with 47 other opposition politicians petitioned national oil corporation Petronas to scrap its operations and investments in Myanmar until the local government recognizes the rights of the Rohingya Muslim minority. The group is calling for such action as part of efforts to protest the violence being leveled against hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s security forces.
Now is it a good idea? Well studies have shown that unilateral economic sanctions are most often than not counterproductive. In fact, just last month the United Nations called for the end of unilateral sanctions precisely because the approach has proven futile. There are many case studies of failed attempts by one country to use unilateral sanctions to submit another country to their will. History has shown that multilateral sanctions would be a better bet even so there are those who would argue that it too will not necessarily achieve the desired result.
After much delay Malaysia is now taking a firm stand on the Rohingya issue. In September Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman took the rare step and brave move of rejecting ASEAN’s stance on the crisis occurring in Myanmar. Malaysia is calling on the international community as a whole to react because as rightly stated by Dato’ Sri Anifah, “ASEAN is no longer able to address this issue.” It is evident that even a handful of countries are unable to pressure Myanmar.
Would Petronas pulling out of Myanmar have any major impact at all? Petronas would be taking a stand on the atrocities faced by Rohingnya but the impact is so minute. Instead a more concerted effort at the international level is necessary to pressure Myanmar into respecting human rights, which it has been relentlessly violating. Perhaps if other oil and gas companies operating in Myanmar banded together it may quite possibly cause Myanmar to sit up and take notice.