Though I agree wholeheartedly with much of what you say in your recent article in "Open Democracy" about the responsibility of the military regime in Burma for the appalling state of the Burmese economy, the problem I have with sanctions, as a political scientist is that in the case of Burma, as so often elsewhere, they have totally failed to achieve their objective. The regime is not responsive in ways which we might naively expect. They are eccentric, ruthless and uncompromising. The more sanctions are "tightened", the more counterproductive they become. Sanctions have indeed been an unmitigated disaster in inducing the regime to mend its ways and institute political reform. They have made them more entrenched, more recalcitrant and more removed from Western influences. Why continue with policies which have so manifestly failed? At least, put them quietly on the back-burner until we can think of something better.
The only sensible, indeed the only known study of the effect of sanctions on Burma in recent years has been by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee which concluded that they were frankly a waste of time. The reason why the US and EU have not published any assessment is that any independent report would be a sustained criticism, and this is not what the US and EU want. The European Parliament repeatedly calls on the European Council for an analysis of why sanctions are failing, never secures any response, but goes on to demand more. The medicine isn't working, indeed, it is making the patient worse, but nonetheless increase the dose.
The ability of the dictatorial regime to pass down to the long suffering population any "measures" supposedly directed at them, in a situation where they are totally cocooned from serious trouble by the dynamic, economies of China and India and are now earning some US$ 2.7 billion annually (Calendar Year ended 31 December 2007), likely to double when the gas pipeline to China is completed, frankly means that they are immune to significant deleterious effects. They are intensely irritated by them, but that is the extent of their problems. The effects all get passed down the ladder to the people, whose economy has stagnated as a result. You will be aware of Morten Pederson's views on how the population at large is affected by sanctions supposedly directed at the regime and their cronies. I agree with him.
I would like to wave a magic wand and see the SPDC gone. But the reality is that the military are bound to have a major influence on the body politic in Burma for the foreseeable future. So let us use the succession to Than Shwe to seek a more rewarding relationship, rather than expecting his successors to buckle and bend under Western pressures, which they will never do.
I thought the wedding of Than Shwe's daughter compared rather poorly with society weddings I have attended in Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Only some 150 guests, the champagne flowing less freely than I have seen even at my son's wedding in Tokyo a few years ago, and apart from those appalling baubles and contrived photographs, frankly nothing out of the ordinary in SE Asian terms, however inappropriate for long-suffering Burma. All in the eye of the beholder!