a community of singaporeans

Time to take a stand – an open letter to George Yeo

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 26, 2007

UPDATE (28 Sept): Jie Kai has informed TOC that Minister George Yeo has read the following Open Letter. TOC also understands that ASEAN ministers are in “intense discussions” about the situation in Burma.

Dear Mr Yeo,

The situation in Myanmar has taken a turn for the worse. As I write, news reports from the BBC and other respected sources report that several protestors, including monks, have been killed. Many others have been injured.

In the light of these horrifying facts, I believe it is time for the government to take stronger diplomatic action against Myanmar.

There is nothing redeeming about the rule of Myanmar by its military rulers. It has made no meaningful progress towards constitutional rule based on democracy and the rule of law. It cannot even claim to be making socio-economic progress for the country. The facts about the misrule of Myanmar by the military junta are sobering.

This is a place where, as the Financial Times puts it, its military leaders place “greater faith in astrologers than in economists and market forces.” As a consequence, (according to the UN), about a third of Burma’s people live below the poverty line and 10 per cent of the population is unable to secure sufficient daily food, and child malnutrition is high.

So what should Singapore do about this?

Obviously, our freedom of action is limited. We are a small country, and what we say will have much less political impact than bigger countries like China or India. General economic sanctions are going to hurt Singaporean interests- many Singaporean businessmen have substantial investments in Myanmar.

Furthermore, general economic sanctions will probably do more harm than good to the people in Myanmar- for example, by creating more unemployment- and many dissidents no longer support such action. In any event I understand that generally speaking, it is not in Singapore‘s interest to provoke any country, especially those far bigger and more populous than ourselves.

Nevertheless, I think there are ways Singapore can show its displeasure at the actions of this awful regime. For one thing, we should work together with the rest of ASEAN to send a strong message that the military regime’s actions are intolerable. If the rest of ASEAN agrees to suspend Myanmar‘s membership in ASEAN, or at least pointedly not invite her to ASEAN’s 40th anniversary celebrations, Singapore should strongly support this.

In addition to action in concert with ASEAN, we should also seriously consider imposing sanctions against leading members of the military regime and their families, restricting their freedom of travel to Singapore on anything other than government-to-government business.

It is an open secret that leading members of the regime frequently travel to Singapore for pleasure and for medical treatment.

This should no longer be tolerated.

Such action may mean the loss of some business for some retailers, private hospitals, and hotels. But what is good for business is not necessarily good for the country. For example, we do not tolerate terrorists who use Singapore as a base to plan their activities in third countries. The Internal Security Department detains such people. And I think that such action will be in the country’s interest.

Singapore will be much better respected as a country with principles; other countries will be less inclined to perceive us as a selfish and calculating people.

Thank you for the time you have taken to read this letter.

Yours sincerely,
Koh Jie Kai
Law student, Corpus Christi College Oxford.


20 Responses to “Time to take a stand – an open letter to George Yeo”

  1. Paul said

    These generals should take their shopping and other travel requirements elsewhere. Why should they choose Singapore when so many other countries can take them?

  2. Gerald said


  3. kilory said

    2 Paul
    because they are not welcome in other countries that respect human rights.

  4. In fact, I can think of a few individuals who should be investigated for actions that may prove to be quite criminal under Singapore law..

  5. Don’t meddle into others affairs unless you want to invite others to meddle into your affairs.
    Myanmar society is more complex than Singapore. The Myanmar government is fighting the armed militants in the jungle.

    Unless you want to see another Iraq, people killed everyday, then go and meddle into Myanmar.

  6. […] on September 27th, 2007 Burmese Protests – Mr Wang Says So: Turning Ugly – Koh Jie Kai, TOC: Time to take a stand – an open letter to George Yeo – The Online Citizen: Monks lead protest in Burma – The States Times: Learning From The Maestro – […]

  7. LCC said

    Hmm… This question may sound redundant but I just wanted to ask: has this open letter been forwarded to MFA/George Yeo?

  8. Julia said

    Thanks alots for writing about Burma. Your opinion is right. I also pray that Mr.Yeo will support the protestors and not accept the Junta’s request. I wish he can save many lives of hopeless people in Burma. I wish all singaporeans will give kindness to all human beings in Burma.

  9. Henry said

    Time to send some of the BGs over there to see if they are combat worthy, before they settle in their cushy GLC postings.

  10. James Chia said

    ASEAN did nothing when thousands were killed during the 1988 protest. What makes you think they will do anything this time round?

  11. Andrew Loh said


    The answer is yes. 🙂


  12. Akira said

    In this BBC article which profiles the top three leaders of the junta, it is said that two out of three of them seek treatment for their illnesses in Singapore’s hospital.

    I have mixed feelings about this… Should we be doing this?

  13. shoestring said

    Medical treatment should be available to all.

  14. […] (Dylan Greene) wrote an interesting article today about Here’s a quick quoteLATEST: Burma protesters defy crackdown – BBC Dear Mr Yeo, The situation in Myanmar has taken a turn for the worse. As I write, news reports from the BBC and other respected sources report that several protestors, including monks, … […]

  15. V said

    Fact is, Singapore has no moral authority to meddle in Burma. We are hardly a free and transparent country ourselves. It is just a matter of to what degree and how competent the military leading the respective countries are. So our Big Genitalia and Rear-Admirers in politics, GLCs and civil service are more business savvy than the Burmese junta but we have as much right to meddle in their affairs as the other half the world who has greater transparency and freedom than Singapore (that’s practically everyone else in the 1st world country club) to meddle in our political affairs.

    For Singapore to call for human rights and constitutional rule and democracy in another country is just hypocrisy. The Singapore government should concentrate on what it does best: build entertainment and posh residences for foreigners; create jobs for foreigners; provide education for foreigners; and screw Singaporeans until 6 months before the next election.

  16. […] Time To Take A Stand – An Open Letter To George Yeo. […]

  17. Sarah S said

    Ha. What l/ states is true. Singapore calling for human rights and democracy is mere hypocrisy. And Singapore merely expressing revulsion at the state of affair in Burma is another statement reeking of hypocrisy. We all know that Singapore is one of the main trading partners of Myanmar in Asia, and all they can say is they’re having an intense discussion? An intense discussion on what? If there are strong calls that Singapore shld impose some sanctions; which industry wld be best to pull out from Myanmar that will not be too much of a financial blow?

  18. David said

    Singapore is just a ‘modern’ version of Myanmar with main difference that one die financially rather than physically.

    I am just appalled that whatever CNN, BCC etc say of Myanmar are just applicable to Singapore, and I thought that they actually refer to Singapore in first place only without those news about death and violence.

    If only Myanmar is smart enough to follow Singapore’s footstep of using Money as instrument rather than the person itself, there probably won’t be bloodshed.

    Gov will be wise to change their way of exploiting people and stop treating Singaporean as fool because just like People of Myanmar, Singaporean has certain threshold level of tolerance.

    A greedy regime never last forever.

  19. matt said

    agreed. in any case i think its wise for singapore to keep out of the affairs of other countries, for it frequently insists that others do likewise when the actions of its government are called into question. it is not the first and won’t be the last time that a government reacts violently to popular unrest. in international relations there are really no such thing as principles. if we are going to jump onto the bandwagon of everyone kao pehing myanmar on the basis that the junta is not democratically elected legitimate government and the status quo not reflective of popular sentiment and aspirations then on the same principle an independence referendum in taiwan should be the supported and welcomed by the international community. unfortunately myanmar is being gangbanged by just about every because it is small, isolated and insignificant. in short, because it can be, more than simply because it should.

  20. Matt, perhaps we should reverse that policy aye. Non-interference policy and sovereignty is no longer absolute carte-blanche for a regime to do anything it pleases, even if it breaks international law.

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