Asian democrats to discuss Burma in rare public forum in S’pore

Prominent democrats across Asia will gather in Singapore to discuss the political crisis in Burma and to explore ways in which Asians can take the lead in helping to bring democracy to the Burmese people.

Included among the delegates will be Hong Kong’s Martin Lee, Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and Malaysia’s Parti Keadilan vice-president Tian Chua.

Messrs Lee, Sam and Chua will be invited to speak at a public forum:

Freeing Burma: How can Asians help?

7 December 2003, Sunday

Le Meridien Hotel
100 Orchard Road
Singapore 238810
Garden Room

2pm to 5pm

There is no admission charge and members of the public are encouraged to attend. The forum is jointly organised by the Open Singapore Centre (OSC), Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia (ARDA), and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD).

The speakers will talk about their governments’ position on Burma and also discuss the various Burmese issues at the regional level including drug trafficking, money laundering, trade and investment, etc. The panelists will also examine what Asian democrats can do to facilitate the process of democratisation in Burma.

The forum will also have a special session during which OSC director Dr Chee Soon Juan will speak on the Singapore government’s role in supporting the military regime in Burma. Dr Chee will question the government’s investments in Burma through the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, of which Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew is the chairman. Singapore, with $1.3 billion worth of investments, is the biggest investor in the politically and economically ravaged country.

“Given the hopelessness of the system in Burma, it is incredible why the Singapore government pours so much money into that country,” Dr Chee said. “Aside from the basic question of human rights, it takes a very foolish person to want to invest in a system as non-transparent and corrupt as Burmas.

The Burmese ruling military is known for its brutality and depravity including the use of child labour, forced labour, the rape of women, and the harsh treatment of democracy activists. On this score, Dr Chee added: Given this abysmal scenario, it is time the Singapore government starts accounting for its actions.”

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, on the other hand, expressed: “I have visited (Burma) and I know that there is only one instrument of government, and that is the army…