Activists test Singapore with ASEAN protests

21 Nov 07

Activists in Singapore challenged the city-state’s tough laws on public demonstrations at a regional summit Tuesday, with three separate incidents including a gathering of 40 Myanmar protesters.

Two members of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party were bundled into police vans and taken away from the area where Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders were holding their annual talks.

But in the biggest incident so far, some 40 Myanmar citizens held a large banner reading: “Listen to Burma’s Desires, Don’t Follow Junta’s Order” as they gathered at Singapore’s main shopping area on the Orchard Road strip.

It was one of the largest public protests seen in recent memory in Singapore, which has tight rules against demonstrations.

But in a soft approach that has characterised police tactics so far, the protesters dispersed peacefully after some 20 police officers approached them following 15 minutes of their rally and asked if they had finished.

It was the latest in a series of protests against Myanmar’s military regime, which is under fire for its violent campaign to shut down mass anti-government demonstrations in its main city Yangon in September.

Earlier Tuesday, four Singapore activists were barred from delivering a greeting card bearing the image of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the ASEAN summit.

Wearing T-shirts with the message, “We pursue peace, justice and democracy for Burma”, they proceeded down Orchard Road under the watchful eye of police.

When they reached the approach road to the heavily guarded hotel where the meeting is being held, they were stopped by police who refused to let them pass and arranged for an ASEAN official to collect the card.

Measuring about two feet (60 centimetres), it contained about 40 signatures and messages which organisers said were mostly from Myanmar people.

“What has been done in Burma should not be condoned,” said one of the protesters, Chia Tilik.

On Monday, another group of nine foreign students from Singapore universities tested the city-state’s laws, which ban protests of five or more people without a permit, by marching in small groups along Orchard Road.

Carrying candles and wearing the same red T-shirts as Tuesday’s group, they later dispersed without incident

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