International sanctions or international justice? Shaping political development in Myanmar

International sanctions, which commonly seek to engineer target state compliance with human rights norms, often fail to deliver on their objectives. In recent years, however, a fresh approach has emerged through the rise of international justice, which can act as either a complement or an alternative to sanctions. In this article, the authors develop three hypotheses. Political change will be facilitated by: (1) lifting sanctions; (2) guarantees of non-prosecution; or (3) lifting sanctions combined with guarantees of non-prosecution. The authors test the hypotheses on Myanmar, a country that has long been subject to international sanctions, but that has rarely complied with human rights norms. Myanmar is also situated in a region where international justice is currently being applied through prosecution of former Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia. The authors’ test was undertaken in June 2010 through a vignette-based expert survey that manipulated international sanctions, international justice and their absence in a 2 x 2 factorial design. The findings point to the need for a consistent approach. Lifting sanctions and guarantees of non-prosecution, when applied in tandem, are thought likely to promote political change. At the other extreme, imposing sanctions and prosecuting state leaders, when done together, are also viewed as facilitators of political change, though support is considerably smaller.