The Economist has an editorial and two articles on the developing situation in Burma.  The second article makes a necessary point about the futility of sanctions:

Shareholder-activists and ordinary consumers have also done their bit to encourage a boycott. But the campaign to punish the regime sometimes seems to have lost sight of its real goal, and to be ready to celebrate isolation itself, not the change it is supposed to bring.

In fact, isolation has never really been on the cards. Any gap is eagerly filled by Myanmar’s neighbours—not just China, but also India and Thailand and other members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Even in the Western camp there have been differences in approach between the three most important members, America, the EU and Japan.

This is, of course, the problem with virtually all sanctions regimes and divestment schemes.  They are intended to send a signal, and indeed they do.  The signal is apparently supposed to be: “We understand neither economics nor politics.”  Not only do other states and private interests take advantage of sanctions and divestment, but the local population sees foreign sanctions as one of the causes of whatever hardships they are facing.  They are also well-aware of the hardships imposed by their own government, but to add sanctions on top of the corruption and misrule is a bit like stepping on a man’s head while he’s drowning.  However, it makes the one imposing the sanctions feel that he has “done something” and has acquitted himself of whatever strange duty he felt that he owed to the internal political disputes of other countries.  Needless to say, those who endure such regimes as SLORC (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) don’t need much more of this kind of “help.”