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19 Nov 07
Activists gathered in front of the Singapore embassy to call on the government of Singapore to take an active lead in international efforts to bring peace to Burma and halt its investments in Burma, when it chairs the ASEAN summit.
A group of human rights advocates and environmentalists called Peace for Burma praised ASEAN for condemning the violent crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations in Burma. They said the condemnation was meaningful to the recognition of Aung San Su Kyi’s role in entering into dialogue with the Burmese junta, and it was laudable that the ASEAN countries lent support to the UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari in his mission to Burma.
However, Peace for Burma believes that ASEAN must make more concrete efforts; particularly it should consider imposing economic sanctions, freezing bank accounts and transactions, and banning business deals with the Burmese junta and its supporters.
While world community is calling on China and India to take constructive roles in solving the crisis in Burma, ASEAN should in no way think that it holds no responsibility as it has much to gain from trades and investments in Burma, the group said. According to a publication of Alternative ASEAN for Burma (ALTSEAN), trade between ASEAN and Burma accounts for over half of the latter’s income from international trade. Therefore, ASEAN has leverage in negotiating with the junta.
Moreover, Singaporean banks hold money for Burmese agencies which do not work in favour of the Burmese people, and other ASEAN countries continue to lend economic support that help reinforce military rule, such as Thailand’s natural gas purchases that earn the junta US$160 million a month.
The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus has insisted that the proposed economic sanction would not affect the Burmese people, but would send a strong signal to the junta to make them realize what would happen if it continues to avoid reconciliation in the country and genuine political dialogue.
The activists said Singapore had frozen North Korea’s bank accounts, so it could do the same with Burma. And the government of Singapore is also urged to refrain from further commitments in trade and investment in Burma, and support the dialogue in the UN Security Council to stop arms trading.
In light of the upcoming endorsement of the ASEAN Charter, Peace for Burma urged the bloc to use this occasion to show the world its intent to uphold human rights and security in the region by imposing serious economic sanctions; otherwise the ASEAN would lose all credibility.
Among the protesters, 10 members wore masks showing the faces of the 10 ASEAN leaders including Burma’s Gen Tan Shwe. They put on a performance, with nine ‘leaders’ giving money to Tan Shwe to represent ASEAN investments which only benefit the junta. And all 10 leaders finally stood in line, hand in hand, like the pose in ASEAN meetings.
Adam Cooper of Peace for Burma presented the group’s open letter to the Singapore government through a representative from the embassy