Opposition party leaders arrested during Burma protest

08 Oct 07

Four leaders of an opposition party were arrested Monday while protesting the Singapore government’s involvement in Burma, the group said.

Each of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) participants held a placard saying, “No Deals,” “No Arms,” “With the Junta,” and “Free Burma.”

The group was composed of Chee Soon Juan, the most vocal opposition leader and secretary general of the SDP; Gandhi Ambalam, SDP chairman; John Tan, assistant secretary general; and member Chee Siok Chin, Chee Soon Juan’s sister.

Chee Soon Juan has been rendered bankrupt for remarks made about Singapore’s leaders during a general election campaign and has been in and out of jail on several occasions for speaking without a police permit.

The SDP said the four were arrested by plain-clothed police once they began their protest in front of the Istana, where Singapore’s top leaders have offices.
The four “were taken to the police vans waiting nearby,” the SDP said in a statement.

They had planned to hold a 24-hour protest preceded by the submission of a petition to Myanmar Ambassador U Win Myint.

The protest was aimed “at raising awareness of the Singapore government’s exploitation of the situation in Burma,” a SDP statement said.

“We demand that the government open its books of the Government Investment Corp and Temasek to the people, starting with its investments in Burma,” it added, referring to government investment agencies.

The party’s petition with 1,107 signatures had been gathered since Burma’s military junta began its bloody crackdown on monks and anti-government demonstrators.

“The ambassador refused to come out and accept the petition himself,” the SDP said. “One of the embassy staff finally showed up and said the embassy could not accept the petition.”

The assembly of more than four people outside without a police permit is illegal in Singapore.

More than 400 Burma nationals packed a hotel room during the weekend to pray for their brethren. The gathering included 12 members of Burma’s Buddhist clergy.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his capacity as chairman of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), strongly criticized Myanmar last week for the crackdown.

Foreign Minister George Yeo has emphasized the importance of keeping Burma as a member of the ASEAN family.

ASEAN is made up of Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

Singapore opposition party members arrested for Myanmar prSDP's four-person protest at Istana. [AP photo/Wong Maye-E]otest
Associated Press
08 Oct 07

A Singapore opposition leader and his party members were arrested Monday after protesting Singapore’s trade ties with Myanmar’s hard-fisted junta outside the city-state’s presidential grounds.

“The Singapore Democratic Party’s four-person representation was arrested by Singapore’s plain-clothed police once they began their protest in front of the Istana,” the SDP said in a statement.

Police did not immediately comment when contacted.

Earlier Monday, SDP Secretary General Chee Soon Juan and party members failed to deliver a petition to the Myanmar ambassador at the Myanmar embassy. They then proceeded to the Istana with a petition to the Singapore government and placards with a photo of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The SDP had been collecting petition signatures outside the Myanmar Embassy since Sept. 30.

Singapore, which is listed as Myanmar’s third largest trading partner after China and Thailand, has periodically come under fire for treating ailing junta leaders, such as Senior General Than Shwe and General Soe Win, at its public hospitals and allegedly allowing junta members to park their wealth in the city-state.

Singapore, as Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has been vocal in criticizing the junta’s deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, while cautioning the U.N. and foreign governments against sanctions that would likely backfire on a regime that is ready to isolate itself.

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