Local activists arrested for supporting Burmese cause

Singapore Democrats

Two young local activists were arrested by the police this afternoon for protesting against the denial of work permits to Burmese nationals who had taken part in protests in Singapore against the military regime in Burma.

Mr Seelan Palay, 24, and Mr Chong Kai Xiong, 27, were detained in front of the Manpower Ministry building at Havelock Road after they staged an hour-long protest in support of two Burmese nationals awaiting deportation following the Ministry’s refusal to renew their work permits.

The two local activists went to MOM at noon wearing red t-shirts with words “We pursue peace, justice, democracy for Burma” on the back and a small map of Burma with “We are one” emblazoned on the front. The two said that as Singaporeans “we are expressing solidarity with the Burmese activists being persecuted by the PAP government” for their opposition to the military junta in their country.

The local activists also displayed a placard reading “stop ill treatment of Burmese activists”.

Soon a CISCO security guard approached them. Later, another security guard appeared on the scene and together the two guards tried to shield away the protesters from the passers-by and onlookers. It took nearly an hour for the police to arrive and arrest the activists for “criminal trespass”.

Both of them were handcuffed and driven away to the Central Police Station. After nearly five hours, both protesters were released on a $2,000 bail each on one surety. They have been told to report at the station two weeks from now.

It may be recalled that more than 40 Burmese, assembling in groups of four, held a peaceful protest along Orchard Road on 20 Nov 07 during the ASEAN Summit in nearby Shangri-la Hotel.

Following the event, the group was accused by the Singapore Government of deliberately breaking local laws. Its members were given a police warning for their participation in the protest. But none of the Burmese activists were ever charged with any unlawful act while pursuing their political objectives.

Since then, three of the Burmese protesters, all members of the Overseas Burmese Patriots (OBP) have been forced to leave the country after their work permits or residence passes were not renewed.

Today’s protest by the local activists was, according to Mr Seelan and Mr Chong, “in solidarity with the Burmese pro-democracy advocates who are awaiting deportation.”

The Burmese nationals have been given till the end of this month to leave Singapore after their repeated requests for the renewal of their work permits were turned down by the MOM. The two, Mr Moe Kyaw Thu, 35 and Mr Win Kyaw, 38, had worked here for 11 years each. Moe is a construction supervisor and Win, a technical supervisor.

The OBP is an advocacy group formed in Singapore to highlight human rights abuses by the Burmese military junta following its crackdown of the pro-democracy movement in Rangoon led by monks in September 2007.

Watch video of the arrest (by Ho Choon Hiong) here

Singaporeans arrested in protest over Myanmar activist expulsions

Police Monday arrested two Singaporean activists for staging a protest in support of Myanmar nationals allegedly being forced to leave the city-state for involvement in political activities.

Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong stood outside the Ministry of Manpower’s building in the city’s business district for about an hour before they were handcuffed by police without showing any resistance.

They wore red T-shirts and held a banner that read “Stop ill-treatment of Burmese activists.”

The protest was in support of two Myanmar nationals, Moe Kyaw Thu and Win Kyaw, whose work permits have not been renewed by Singapore, effectively forcing them to leave, Palay said.

He said the two men were among 40 Myanmar nationals who took part in a protest against their country’s ruling junta during a summit of Southeast Asian leaders hosted by Singapore in November 2007.

“We can’t just stand by as Singaporeans, as personal friends, and watch them being expelled one by one,” he said.

Moe Kyaw Thu told AFP that he was required to leave Singapore by January 27. Win Kyaw could not be contacted for comment Monday.

The Ministry of Home Affairs did not immediately reply to emailed queries from AFP on the case of the Myanmar nationals. A few others who took part in the same protest in 2007 have also had their work permit renewals turned down.

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng in September defended the government’s decision not to renew the visas of some Myanmar nationals working or studying in the city-state, saying they were “undesirable” people.

Singapore has eased rules governing protests in a designated public park but it remains illegal elsewhere to hold a public gathering of five or more people without a police permit.

Singapore is home to an estimated 30,000 Myanmar nationals, many of them drawn by jobs as labourers that pay far above what they could earn in their poverty-stricken homeland.


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