a community of singaporeans

Debt of Honour: Singapore’s Ties to Burma’s Junta

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 29, 2007

This is an updated article of the one published on TOC earlier, titled “Singapore’s debt of honour”.

By Benjamin Cheah

The crisis in Burma is escalating. For the first time in two decades, the people are taking to the streets. It started with protests against the doubling of fuel prices, and the sharp increase in prices of essential goods and services. 1

It has now become a call for democracy, and freedom.

The military has seen fit to respond with tear gas, arrests, beatings, and live rounds. State television claims that there are nine dead. Witnesses believe that the true toll lies in the hundreds. 2

The source of this must lie with the junta in power. After seizing power in 1962, the State Law and Order Restoration Committee embarked on the ‘Burmese Road to Socialism’, an economic policy that has done nothing but to impoverish the people.

The people are kept in line through intimidation, systematic rape, arbitrary detention, forced labour, and other tools of state terror. The junta and its cronies virtually control the nation’s wealth, making tremendous profits from sales of drugs, gems, and timber. This combination of poverty, inequality, and repression has exploded into the situation we see today. 3

That the regime was responsible for this is not in doubt. However, it could not have done so without the assistance of other governments. In particular, one country has provided the greatest economic and military assistance to the regime, enabling it to restore ‘law and order’ while enlarging its bank accounts. That nation is the Republic of Singapore.

Singapore’s business ties with Burma

Above the board, Singapore has done a lot of business with Burma. SingTel was the first firm to provide Burmese businesses and government offices with the ability to establish inter- and intra-corporate communications in over 90 countries. At the same time, all computers, software, e-mail services and telecommunications devices must be licensed, a feat whose difficulty rivals the application for a permit for a public demonstration in Singapore. (See below for Singtel’s reply to this.)

Coupled with the prohibitively high cost of computers in Burma, and it can be inferred that the regime is intent on keeping communications technology away from Burmese political opposition figures as much as possible. This act serves to enrich the ruling elites and further strengthen their grip on society. 3

Singapore invested S$1.57 billion in Burma in 2005, making her the largest direct foreign investor in the country from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Since 1988, Singapore has invested S$2 billion in Burma, mostly in tourism and the military. 4 A substantial portion of Singapore‘s investments has gone into Asia World, a Burmese construction company, owned by drug traffickers and money launderers. 3, 4, 5

Lo Hsing Han is the chair of Asia World, founded in 1992. Ostensibly a successful businessman, he also served as ethnic advisor to former Burmese Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, and continues to oversee his drug operations in Burma. It is alleged that Asia World has been used as a front for drug trafficking. 3, 5

His son, Steven Law, is the firm’s managing director, and runs various firms, which happen to be subsidiaries of Asia World. 3, 5 He also reportedly handles his father’s financial activities. 3 Steven Law married his Singaporean business partner in 1996. She is alleged to have used her connections to the government to launder money for Burma‘s drug barons, in addition to other legitimate business dealings. 3, 5, 6, 7


It is ironic that we pride ourselves on hanging drug traffickers while we do business with drug lords, not to mention grossly hypocritical. It has been speculated that we allow Burmese drug barons to travel freely, and for the junta’s generals to visit Singapore for medical treatment, in addition to turning a blind eye to shady financial practices. 3, 5, 6, 7.

This is not the end. The Government has provided the instruments of force that keep the junta in power.

Singapore Technologies has built a state-of-the-art cyber warfare centre in Yangon. With it, the regime’s secret police can intercept a spectrum of communications, from telephone calls to faxes to e-mail, from over twenty countries. 3, 5, 9 On October 6, 1988, hundreds of mortars, munitions and military supplies were unloaded in Yangon. They were marked “Allied Ordnance, Singapore“, which is a subsidiary of Chartered Industries of Singapore3, 8, 9 , now part of ST Engineering. The shipment also included license-built Swedish rockets, thereby violating an agreement with Sweden that required authorisation for arms exports. 3, 9

The following year, Israel and Belgium shipped grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons via Singapore. 3, 8 In 1992, Singapore brokered a $1.5 million shipment of mortars from Portugal, violating a European Commission arms embargo. 3, 8, 9 In 1995, Chartered Industries of Singapore built an arms factory in Burma. 9 Singapore has armed the regime.

These incidents are just the ones documented in the public domain; I would not be surprised if there were more shady deals between the governments of both states, the consequences of which could have surfaced in recently.

Manufactured in Singapore?

On the 27th of September, a Singaporean was shot by Burmese riot police.10, 11 According to a photograph of a recovered rubber bullet11, there are two legible English words: ‘control’ and ‘rubber’. The official language of Burma is Burmese, with scant attention paid to the English language; it is therefore highly improbable that the round was made produced locally. Europe and the United States have enforced sanctions against Burma, so they can be ruled out. China, India and Thailand, Burma‘s largest trading partners, probably would not use English markings on ammunition. Therefore, I suspect that the round was made in Singapore, and exported to Burma.

The Singapore Government has allowed the junta and its cronies to get richer and richer, while the people have to contend with Third World living standards and systematic oppression. Singapore has turned a blind eye to international criminal activity operating out of Myanmar, whose ringleaders visit Singapore every now and then. Most damning of all, Singapore has sold weapons to Burma, the same arms that are keeping the junta in place. Singapore is therefore indirectly responsible for the current state of affairs in Burma.

What Singapore must do now

The world is watching. Singapore currently holds the chairmanship of ASEAN. ASEAN has condemned the junta’s response to the protests. 13 Singapore, in particular, is engaging in ‘quiet diplomacy’, and is backing United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari in his attempt to defuse the situation. 14 But this is not nearly enough.

If Singapore truly wishes for an end to the crisis, and is genuinely concerned about the people of Burma, it is her duty to send a strong message to the junta. Singapore must declare, and cease, any and all arms exports to the military regime. Singapore must also impose economic sanctions on Burma, in particular targeting strategic resources and supplies destined for the military and the police.

Singapore must withdraw all investments in firms linked to the regime, or its cronies. Singapore must also investigate all reports of money laundering on local soil, and prosecute the guilty to the fullest extent of the law. All assets belonging to the junta and its cronies must be frozen.

Finally, Singapore must bar the Burmese drug barons and junta members from setting foot in Singapore.

Singapore owes the people of Burma a debt of honour. We have the means to expunge it. What we need is the political will, and the determination, to clean up the mess we have created.


1. “Q&a: Protests in Burma.” BBC News. 27 Sept. 2007. 30 Sept. 2007 <;.

2. “THE TORRENT OF BAD NEWS.” Yangon Thu. 29 Sept. 2007. 30 Sept. 2007 <;.

3. Kean, Leslie, and Dennis Bernstein. “The Burma-Singapore Axis: Globalizing the Heroin Trade.” Covert Action Quarterly (1998). 28 Sept. 2007

4. “The Associated Press: Foreign Investment in Myanmar Dropped 12 Percent in 2005.” BurmaNet News. 11 Jan. 2006. 28 Sept. 2007 <;.

5. Ellis, Eric. “Web of Cash, Power, and Cronies.” The Age 29 Sept. 2007. 30 Sept. 2007 <;.

6. McKenna, Michael. “Singapore‘s Hand in Golden Triangle: Australian.” Singapore Angle. 23 Nov. 2005. 28 Sept. 2007 <Ellis, Eric. “Web of Cash, Power, and Cronies.” The Age 29 Sept. 2007. 30 Sept. 2007 .>.

7. Casanier, Francois. “Kun Sa’s Surrender, a Narco-Dictatorship in Progress.” Khun Sa’s Surrender, a Narco-Dictat. 13 Jan. 1996. 29 Sept. 2007 <;.

8. Ashton, William. “Myanmar and Israel Develop Military.” Myanmar and Israel Develop Military. 29 Sept. 2007 <;.

9. Barnes, William, and Bruce Hawke. “The BurmaNet News: July 23, 1998.” The BurmaNet News. 29 Sept. 2007 <;.

10. “MFA Says It’s Appalled by Violent Act Towards S’Porean.” The Straits Times 28 Sept. 2007. 28 Sept. 2007 <;.

11. “Ko Htike’s Prosaic Collection.” Ko Htike’s Prosaic Collection. 28 Sept. 2007. 28 Sept. 2007 <;.

12. DSCF7041.JPG. 28 Sept. 2007 <;. (From source 11, under post on 28 September)

13. Pereira, Derwin. “Asean Rebukes Myanmar Over Use of Force.” The Straits Times 29 Sept. 2007: 1.

14. Pereira, Derwin. “Important to Avert Violence: Goerge Yeo.” The Straits Times 28 Sept. 2007: 7.



Email exchange between Singtel and Benjamin (4th Oct 2007) – as published on Benjamin’s blog:

“Hi Benjamin,
“This is Peter Heng from SingTel Corporate Communications. I found your “Debt of Honour:
Singapore‘s Ties to Burma‘s Junta” an interesting blog post. I would like to share with your readers that SingTel does not have any investments in Myanmar. As the main telco service operator in Singapore, we provide telecommunications links with Myanmar as we would with any other country. ”

My reply:

“Mr. Heng,

“thanks for reading. What I meant was that Singtel was the first to establish such telecoms links in Burma. It wasn’t meant to imply that SingTel had any investments in the country after that. The rest of the paragraph with SingTel in it outlines the junta’s actions regarding telecomms equipment and services in Burma — which does not implicate SingTel in any wrongdoing whatsoever, nor indicate that SingTel was involved in the whole affair. In fact, there is no documented proof that SingTel has any further dealings with Myanmar beyond the provision of telecoms links. I just put SingTel in because my source (as cited) stated that SingTel did what it alledgedly did: provide telecoms links. Nothing more than that.

“Still, thanks for your clarification. If you don’t mind, I would like to reproduce this e-mail on that post, as a quasi-official statement from SingTel regarding its lack of investments in Burma.

“Yours sincerely,

Final response:

“Hi Benjamin, Thanks for getting back to me. Pl go ahead to reproduce my earlier email for your blog.

Given that there is no proof that SingTel has any sort of investments in the country, this statement could possibly be accepted on good faith. That being said, I wish ST Engineering and Asia World would be more forthcoming with the true extent of their dealings with Burma, and the regime. The clock is winding down, and blood is on our hands. But all the government has done is talk, and talk.


49 Responses to “Debt of Honour: Singapore’s Ties to Burma’s Junta”

  1. David said

    I have never thought that Singapore gov act this way. So we are really the indirect partner in crime.

    By the way, how does one find ot all this information?
    Amazing information that ShitTime didn’t even talk about.

  2. LifesLikeThat said

    All our MPs seem to be sleeping. The only person who has spoke up is Chee Soon Juan. Even India’s MPs are asking for their govt to do more.

    Are all our politicians sleeping?

    And it is extremely sad to see that ASEAN is hiding behind the UN envoy’s trip to Burma. That is what ASEAN is good for. Hold hands, take nice pictures, smile when talking about economic development.

    But when it comes to a substantive issues, they hide behind others.

    A real bloody disgrace.

  3. David said

    Don’t blame gov for everything lah…
    They are now very anixous … they are very anxious because of ‘PAY DAY COMING !!’

  4. James Chia said

    Singapore really has to threaten them with economic sanction to stop them from continuing to violate human rights with impunity. Unless the Singapore government deem money more impt than anything else. Stop the hyprocrisy. Statements after statements they issue but with no concrete actions against the regime.

  5. I believe if we threaten to use our FDI in Burma as leverage, it might not even have as much impact as we would hope, given that China has already over-taken us in that aspect.

    However, this angle is what the ordinary Singaporeans have not had much chance of seeing. There’s no smoke without fire.

  6. Ned Stark said


    All this begets another question..what in it for Singapore to do something other than the usual diplomatic protests? The answer unfortunately for the people of Myanmar is nothing! I doubt that there are any economic benefits to be had taking the side of the people of Myanmar…its sad but after all this is Singapore…where sympathy for the people in Myanmar will be seen as an “admirable sentiment”.

  7. Andrew Loh said


    Yes, there is little Singapore can do to effect any significant changes in Burma. But that does not mean that we can’t do anythin. For a start, just as we ban terrorists from entering singapore, we should also ban these murderers from Burma from coming to singapore for pleasure and medical treatment.

    They are no different from terrorists, in my opinion. In fact, they are worse.

    Singapore should start seeing that there are more humane goals other than economic ones. A Burmese I spoke to last night at the temple said to me: “Singapore is a nice place. Clean and very efficient. But one thing is missing. Humanity. That is what we see Singapore as. Singapore must do more in this respect.”

    And of course, it should not be for our sake that we become more “humane”, although that would be greatly welcome. What is more important is that when you see fellow human beigs being systemically raped, have their villages torched, prisoners tortured and murdered, and you are doing business with them at the same time… then it is time we start thinking about our conscience.

    For if we spout “family values” and “confucian values” and preach about ‘peace’, ‘brotherhood’ and such like, while in the background support a brutal regime, what does that make us?

  8. Andrew, the other more honest way of describing pragmatism is of course leaning towards hypocrisy.

  9. solidarity with the burmese people said

    Al-Jazeera is now reporting the incidents in Myanmar from within. Its correspondent reports from there.

    On the other hand CNA which hallucinates that it provides an Asian perspective has its correspondent reporting from Bangkok. Professional journalism takes courage and knowledge. Its not about being pretty, sexy and eloquent…. something CNA needs to learn

    Thats what makes CNA a lifestyle channel and Al-Jazeera a global news channel…

  10. amazed said

    Even if half of what you wrote is true, Singapore government must respond …. this is no time to maintain silence. Too deafening.

  11. CORRECTION: Singapore is Myanmar’s largest foreign investor from ASEAN, not in the world. The figures I’ve stated were true as of 2005, at least, but it is not necesarily true today. TOC editors, please correct the erroneous statement in the article. Thanks.


    Well, I’ve taken the liberty of posting all my sources alongside my original post. It’s on my blog, at the end of the article. Admittedly, some of them are dated, but there’s no recent information that I could find.

    I’m not surprised that the ST hasn’t reported this. After all, their job is to report the news, not to incite people against something or other.


    It’s a disgrace, all right. We have so much heartware that we can’t find any compassion for a fellow member of ASEAN. Apart from a couple of questions at Parliament, I haven’t heard of any follow-up action from our (mostly) elected representatives. ASEAN needs to do more if it wants to retain its credibility as an international organisation in the world.

    James Chia and Celluloidrealitys,

    Practically, sanctions from Singapore might hurt the regime, but it probably won’t be a decisive blow. Symbolically, however, it might. If Singapore were to place sanctions on the junta, especially if they were sanctions on strategic supplies, we’d be sending them a message: they have lost their partner in ASEAN. It might convince the junta that it has lost its main ASEAN supporter because of its actions. Of course, it might also isolate the regime, and push them closer to India or the PRC. I’m no political analyst, unfortunately, so the cards are still up.

    But that’s assuming that we would enforce sanctions, to begin with.

    Ned Stark:

    Given the government’s intense focus on economic benefits, I daresay that you’re right. Bitter as it may be, there’s no reason for the government to take a stronger stand against its indirect partner in crime. I think that the most the government would do would be to evacuate all Singaporeans from the country, using military personnel if necessary, and perhaps (maybe temporarily) withholding and/or withdrawing investments (for what good that would do). Short of pressure from without, be it from the people or from other states, the government probably would not do anything more than condemn the junta — which, of course, is just an assembly of flowery words. If we want the government to do more, instead of just waiting for the UN envoy, we need to pressure it.

    On the other hand, we don’t know what, exactly, is going on. ASEAN is famous for backdoor diplomacy (George Yeo’s “quiet diplomacy”), with very little actually going out into the public. Yeo himself confirmed that he was in ‘intense discussion’ with other ASEAN ministers. We don’t know enough about the situation, especially the actual relationship between the government and the junta. It might yet be possible that we might yet do something more than condemn the regime.


    Quite right. We might even extend this into investigating the goings-on at Peninsula Plaza (speculated to be used for Burmese money-laundering), and allegations of shady deals involving the regime. Such a move could possibly be of more interest to the regime instead of sanctions alone. This would deny the junta, and its cronies, a safe haven for rest, relaxation, and medical treatment. Given that power in Myanmar is concentrated in their hands, such a measure would affect them personally, and more profoundly, than sanctions.

    The government thinks that economic development should be the primary benchmark for policy-making. It has to understand that it is not just an institution. It is a collection of human beings, whose humanity and conscience are reflected in their works. We cannot afford to be coldly pragmatic in this case; not unless we are quite prepared to have the blood of innocents on our hands. The government needs to understand that.

    Whether it would or not, of course, is something else.

  12. Solidarity with the burmese monks said

    economic sanctions on myanmar are going to only hurt the myanmar general population. the west needs to learn from its mistakes in handling iraq prior to the occupation.
    where the counter measures are going to force the junta to succumb to global demands is through restraining their monies and their weapons supply.

    the military may have sufficient supplies now but it will need replacement supplies for future. once all supplies of weapons are cut off today, it will make the military nervous as it limits their sustanability .

    restraining their monies will also compel them to listen. therefore should the generals and their men be keeping their money here in Singapore, it will highly likely to be with the private banking industry of the large commercial domestic and foreign banks. such accounts must be frozen. should there be any investments in companies which i doubt they will do explicitly, those need to be frozen also.

    there is seriously much that the west and singapore can do. it may not be the tipping point but it will make the junta really desperate

  13. Andrew Loh said

    Just to highlight this news report by AFP:

    “Myanmar PM in long stay at S’pore hospital”

  14. David said

    If Minister Ng is going to be asked this question:

    “Is Singapore supporting Myanmar Junta ?”

    The answer will probably be :
    “The answer is no.”
    Later he probably might rose to add: “The relationship is not so simple”.

    just like the CPF thing:

    This whole thing actually work like game theory. Indeed, the relationship is never simple.

    For country like Singapore gov who behaviour is KiaSi, (Scare Die), KiaSu (Scare Lost), conceding to aggressively condemning Myanmar means defeat itself. LKY always fear that Singapore will become irrelevant and therefore find anyways to secure the country’s future (or his party future, or whatever)against potential economic threat from India, China, Vietnam or whatever SoTong there is.
    Therefore unless the whole of ASEAN come together and start condemning Myanmar at same level, neither of any ASEAN countries will want to give-in to jeopardise business partners relationship of Junta should the Junta remain in power after the crackdown.

    So the whole thing is been deadlocked because no one now want to give way due to the potential to generate tremendous amound of business and money from working with Junta.

    Of course, the whole thing may change if Junta is overthrown, but this remain unlikely because never in history of the world has a regime been overthrown by peaceful/moral protest but by violence and force. Revolution is been forced through blood and tears not through sweet talk and compromise.

    Therefore, this is where UN come in as very important because those dirty jobs are simply push to UN as scrapegoat, rendering all ASEAN countries a fair share of potential business with Junta.

    That’s why gov will unreluctantly side with Junta because of economic interest.
    It should not be surprised afterall all other ASEAN countries are just likely to do the same.

    There is game theory at play now.

  15. David said

    Even if ASEAN countries come together, there is still threat from rising economic power like Dubai,etc which might work with Junta for economic interest or new partner which no Bandage to start with.

    Just confining the problem within ASEAN is just myopia.

  16. James Chia said

    Benjamin Cheah and Solidarity with the burmese monks Says,

    I agree on the economic sanctions of strategic resources especially weaponry would hurt the regime to a great extent and make them really sit up and listen to the international world. I understand that we have a US$1.6billion trade with Burma and I believe this includes an export of arms. Does anyone know the total value of export of arms? Of course, there’s no need to have any sanctions on goods like food which would mostly benefit the general public.

  17. Alex Ong (eX.A.K.R.) said

    It’s still not too late for Singapore to renounce and cut ties with those so-called rulers in Burma; if George Yeo wants to be sincere with his statement, coming clean and cutting all ties with them will reinforce the message many, many times over.

    Yes, there’s the money, but is that money clean? Is Singapore really so money-greedy to even take dishonest, blood-tainted gold?

    If Singapore’s government was just being ignorant, then this is the time their eyes should be wide open now – they risk offending the many Buddhists and Burmese people in this country if they allow this to continue, and maybe more – one of our own has in fact been wounded, probably by weaponary produced in his very own backyard. If they continue supporting this false regime, it can almost be taken to mean that they are allowing their own citizens to be harmed by the weapons they produced themselves for those so-called rulers. And this, surely, won’t boil down well with the rest of the population.

    I hereby call for the Singapore government to support us by cutting ties and imposing sanctions on Burma’s false rulers, and join the rest of this country – and the world – in condemning the so-called rulers of Burma. If there’s any worry about lost money, I urge the Singapore government to think about the honest money elsewhere; if we want to keep our status as a transparent, honest, and clean economy, we are better off without them.

  18. Solidarity with the Burmese monks,

    By ‘sanction’, one could simply mean the restriction of exports of small arms, munitions, and other critical military supplies. I actually debated the effectiveness of sanctions before, and concluded that in Third World nations like Burma, sanctions tend to hurt the people more than the current regime. Not to mention the fact that they increase the risk of armed conflict between the states involved. So, as you said, cutting off military exports and freezing their assets would be a viable diplomatic strategy for Singapore. But, of course, it all means nothing if the government won’t do it.


    Actually, there have been instances when dictatorships have been toppled peacefully. Ferdinand Marcos, for example, was ousted by peaceful protests in the Philippines. In 1989, from Poland to Hungary, Bulgaria to Czechoslavakia, demonstrators and protestors forced the local Communist Party officials to step down, effectively dissolving the Soviet Union. It’s possible that junta might yet step down — but it’s hard to tell. Having said that, there’s no guarantee that the situation would not escalate into greater violence and bloodshed, like it did in 1988.

    The game theory is, of course, a valid one. At the same time, it could be circumvented by exterior pressure: in this case, by the people pressuring their governments to do something. I’ll submit that this is more likely in other ASEAN states, but one would never know if we don’t try.

    James Chia,

    I doubt any civilian knows the total value of arms exports to Myanmar. ST Engineering has yet to open its books for third party accountants, and I don’t think the Ministry of Trade of Industry would be forthcoming with details.

    Alex Ong,

    Indeed. The only way for this to happen is to spread the word, and let the Government know, very clearly, what we want our elected rulers to do.

  19. Onlooker said

    Look even monks who have no material needs have spoken out against The Junta regime. This is a really serious issue but all we can do now is to watch and hope for the better .Because We all know that our representative will not impose sanction Burma :(. Hope I’m wrong.

  20. Ned Stark said

    Trade sanctions will not work on Myanmar. Hasnt there been trade sanctions for the past few years? Military dictatorships will only back down when faced with force; be it through people power or elsewhere.

  21. Onlooker,

    Same here. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

    Ned Stark,

    Surely. What I am saying, though, is specifically the cessation of arms exports to Myanmar, if we still do, as our sanctions. That’s in addition to freezing the junta’s assets, as mentioned earlier, to hit them in their pocketbooks. The idea is to increase the pressure on them, in addition to the resistance they are currently facing from the protestors. This, of course, is just a start. There are plenty of other policies that we could pursue — not all of which, I would admit, would be considered seriously, or be accepted by the people of Singapore, Burma, and the world.

  22. yh said

    You think the Singaporean Government would?
    And not many people are gonna bother about it anyway we’ll just carry on living our lives…

  23. SECOND CORRECTION: I’m sorry to say, there’s another mistake here. The stats for investment in Singapore in this article was true only for 2005. I can’t find figures for investments in 2006-7.


    I don’t think the Government, barring outside pressure, would do much of anything. Hence the need for an outside force.

    As for local apathy, it depends on where you come from. Quite a lot of people care about the situation on the ground: there’s the petition, application for demonstration outside the Myanmar embassy, TOC’s articles, and the like. And, at the same time, there’re a lot of people who are quite happy to not care about something happening so far away. It’s not a question of how many people that care, rather whether or not enough people care enough to do something. Maybe there are enough people, and if not, why not get others to take a look and start caring?

  24. qq said

  25. darren said

    [ Steven Law married his business partner in 1996. Using her connections to the government, she {Cecilia Ng} allegedly launders money for Burma’s drug barons. ]

    From :

    The third daughter of Mr. Ng Ah Koon
    and Madam Hong Or Tew Chua
    (17D Jansen Road, Singapore)
    Ms. Ng Sor Hong alias Cecilia Ng
    S.H. Ng Trading (Singapore)

    Wonder she is connected/related to here?

  26. Alex Ong (eX.A.K.R.) said

    Qq, I’m not really liking what you have over there.

  27. LCC said

    AFP: Global firms provide lifeline to Myanmar’s junta

  28. LCC said

    Myanmar’s economy

    Exports (2006)
    Thailand: $2.1bn
    India: $527m
    China: $230m

    Imports (2006)
    China: $1.3bn
    Thailand: $837m
    Singapore: $620m

    Official aid (2004): $121m
    China, India and Japan are key contributors.

    Black market: According to most estimates, the black economy matches its official counterpart.

    (Sources: Asian Development Bank, 2007 Key Indicators, Reuters, UNDP, UNODC, Global Witness)

  29. David said

    From LCC’s info on Myanmar economy,
    and not on speaking for gov, and on what’s workable,
    it seem it does not matter even if Singapore exercised it moral authority and break ties with Junta, because the growing economic power china and India will just simply share the business pie that used to be from Singapore.

    For this to resolved, that the largest contributor china and india will probably need give in first before Singapore will give in afterall, the tinyRedDot does not like to be bully by BIG brothers.

    It really doesn’t make any difference if Singapore give up its business whereas India and China stand to benefit with more business with Junta. If Singapore do give in, it only encourage other prospective military regime to work with India and China because these two major superpower will not give in to foreign pressure, and thus able to maintain business relationship in time of trouble.

    Therefore, to resolve Burma’s problems, It’s actually ALL or NOTHING. Meaning, ALL ASEAN continue to work with Junta for business matter, or NONE of ASEAN and any other countries should work with Junta.

    Still, things are not so simple, if we give nothing to Junta, it will be the people that suffer first not Junta. The Junta will maintain its survival first, leaving nothing to the people.

    If Junta’s probability of staying in power is high, does it really make sense for Singapore to give in to foreign pressure or moral authority given that rest of countries stand to benefit ?

    Well, ASEAN countries are just putting on the Waiting game, and wait that the protest is suppressed and everything back to business again because odd of Junta suppressing the protest is so much higher than Junta been replaced.

    Of course, miracle do happen, but until then, it is all waiting game. Moreover, given that internet is down for Burma, it give even more reasons to be NATO (No Action Talk Only). It is those picture, video, comment, account that post to internet that force pressure to do something, and given that internet is down, those pressure will only amount to excuses of not doing anything.

    Relying on internet to force pressure can be a help, and it is also internet that actually hinder because lack of internet access becomes excuses.

    Just check the news daily, and you see once burma’s internet access down, interest from countries to help is reduced citing that they do not have enough information to help. It is obvious that they means info from internet.

  30. Gerald said

    Excellent article, Benjamin. Good research done. Would be helpful, though if you put links to all your sources so we can look it up and do further research.

  31. […] on the current Myanmar bloodshed. You can read his article “Singapore Debt of Honour” here on […]

  32. David,

    as I see it, though, the people aren’t exactly going to suffer much more if Singapore decides to cut all ties to the regime. From what I’ve read, most, if not all, of the profits earned by the Myanmese firms go into the bosses’ pockets (meaning, the junta and its mates). By directly and precisely attacking the regime’s pocketbooks, we’ll be able to exert more pressure than most other countries.

    Despite the fact that the junta earns (legitimate) revenue through business dealings with China and India, we can’t discount the fact that they park their money in Singapore. And the money they earn from their illegal businesses is laundered and kept in Singapore’s banks. (Though I suspect that some Thai banks are complicit in this affair.) By threatening to bankrupt the entire regime and its cronies at a stroke, the message bcomes direct and personal. I think that the key to reaching this hermit kingdom is to send a personal message to the leaders — and this is one way.

    But I remain unconvinced that ASEAN, India or China would do much. Well, maybe India might do something, since the democratic and humanitarian tradition has been engrained in the local culture for a while. China, being Myanmar’s biggest business partner (among other things), would probably continue defending the junta until and unless they screw up badly (like massacre hundreds of monks in front of a journalist). As for ASEAN, well, I’m not optimistic.

    The nations with the largest stake in this is Thailand and Singapore, since the regime has done a lot of business with the governments of both countries (legally and otherwise). Pragmatism being our watchword, I don’t think Singapore would do much beyond talk. Thailand, however, has another stake in this matter. Ever since the 1960s, Thailand played host to hundreds of thousands of refugees, usually ethnic minorities, that have fled prosecution from Myanmar. If the demonstrations fall through, the people of Burma, especially those in the rural and border areas, would have an ever greater impetus to flee Burma to avoid reprisals — and possibly head for Thailand. Thailand has already experienced refugee crises before, most notably after the 1979 Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea (now Cambodia). But, I don’t know what the Thais are doing, or thinking, beyond what Bangkok released in press statements.

    The less-involved nations would swing the issue. But as is, I’m not optimistic. The Phiippines could be the most active among the remaining ASEAN states, but that one is dicey at best: I’m simply banking on concern for the people, and the future of ASEAN. Malaysia and Indonesia have historically been the most proactive members of ASEAN — but they are eternal rivals, and could well be at loggerheads with each other unless they agree to a common ground (not impossible; the Kuantan Declaration in the 1980s proved this). I’m not confident that they would want to intervene, owing to the slowly-growing influence of Muslim/Malay nationalists, sheer geographical distance, and because they don’t have much of a stake to begin with.

    If ASEAN were to do something, it has to first work out a short- and long-term solution in its favour. As I see it, it could go along the lines of severing all business ties with the junta, and promise economic development and investments to a more humane, democratic government, since they’re so concerned about the economy, in addition to cooperation with other international institutions to resolve the matter. And follow through on their words.

    The key is for ASEAN to work as a collective, coherent, whole, ideally in concert with India, China, and/or the UN. The world is watching ASEAN: Burma is a member of ASEAN, and this is the first inter-organisational crisis ASEAN has experienced since its formation. This event could well spell the future of ASEAN as an international body.

    But, well, I’m just a JC student, and politicians would be politicians.


    Thanks. The essay has been updated, complete with citations and sources. (I didn’t do it for the original article, because it was originally meant to be a blog post, and I’m not skilled at handling HTML…)

  33. David said

    George Yeo, MM Lee, PM, Presidents etc will be happy to know that very soon everything will be back to normal again. Look like they master the art of “Silence is golden” using lesson from NKF, NSW etc…

    MillionsDollarSalary= STFU = NoReply

    Once again, I foreseen that these millions dollar gahmen will come out again as usual and preach their moral authority and governance system to the world.

    From this saga, we definitely know what our expensive ministers are really make of. They are really taiji masters and master ninjatsu in art of appearing on the right moment, disappear at the wrong moment.

    We Singaporean, indeed should learn from our gov.

    It is very shameful that gov still doesn’t tell us about their involvement about Junta. Indeed, Lesile Fong will have to eat his word saying blog is not credible. At least, blog reveal thing that ShitTime doesn’t even report on.

    I wonder how Singaporean can be intelligent just by believing and reading ShitTime.

  34. James Chia said

    I’m very disgusted by the media not picking up this piece of news. Investigative journalism can really be a dream in this nation. All these in the name of ‘nation-building’.

  35. leakin said

    interesting sites on alleged spore ties with burma

    I hope the st will run a story on these things

  36. I’m going to run an experiment here, looking at this essay and its implications. I’ve posted an edited (for Blogspot) version of this essay on my blog. I believe that this essay should reach as wide an audience as possible, and connect to as many people as possible, for maximum effect. This is especially in light of George Yeo’s recent statement that ASEAN may have little influence over Burma.

    The essay is >here.

    Full permission is granted to reproduce the essay in its entirety, so long as it is properly accredited, with a link back to myself in case someone wishes to follow up on it. If nothing else, it’s a demonstration of solidarity for the Burmese — and a plea for our government to do more than talk.

  37. …Looks like I screwed up the hyperlink. Oh well.


    It looks like you’re right. The demonstrations are dying down, the inevitable reprisals are around the corner, and ASEAN — and Singapore — seems content to sit and talk, and talk, and talk. Looks like they’re more interested in money than anything else.

    As for the ST…I consider it prime material for critical thinking exercises. Good practice for the A levels.

    James Chia,

    Indeed. And yet someone’s got to start somewhere, or we’ll never know if investigative journalism would ever succeed. It can work on the Internet — now we need to see if the State would see things this way.

    (Which it won’t.)


    While I think the chances of that happening are a little less than that of a snowball forming in the Sahara, there may be a chance that local media would run a story to ‘disprove’ these claims, directly or indirectly.

    Or pretend that they don’t exist.

  38. David said

    There will never be another uprising for another decade again for Burma as the last of the monks are been suppressed and their position in society will be downplay in Burma to prevent their use of moral standing to evoke another uprising.
    With Junta rising in power again, the choice of Junta working with more countries seem promising afterall, there is nothing in the world can do to change anything at all, but to work with Junta to do business with them at the expense of people of burma.

    The rest of the world will be following the footsteps of Singapore gov as they envy Singapore’s much success. Ruthless, selfish, self-centered, self-justified etc as long as they achieve their aims.

    Indeed, our society has been morally corrupted since the the incorporation of Singapore Inc.

  39. […] shot by Myanmar police; Japanese journalist apparently shot point blank – Benjamin Cheah, TOC: Singapore’s debt of honour – The Online Citizen: More than 1,000 gather at Burmese temple in solidarity – The Online Citizen: […]

  40. […] […]

  41. David said

    PM says:
    “Somebody who is sick, he wants to come to Singapore, he needs treatment and you’re telling me that I shouldn’t treat him because he is not a good man? It goes against the Hippocratic oath of doctors.”

    I agreed, as it doesn’t matter if the foreigner is a murderer, rapist and anyone who do evil, as long as he can provide economic and wealth interest to coffers’ party, anything goes.

    The saga is over, why not PM STFU ?

    We know PM is not credible after craps of freedom of speech, accountability, moral authority, society based on equity etc…

    If PM means what he says, wealthly terrorist will be welcome to seek treatment here, and why not PM invit Saddam and other terrorists to Singapore for treatment (Brain treatment to become good people). The junta is no worse than terrorist !!! Killing people and we are the supplier of those weapons etc to Junta means we have bear the blood of those people who die innocently in burma. This is something we never forget. Sadly, we are the murderer’s apprentice.

    Really shameful of what had become Singapore society run by shameless gov who lack humanity and compassionate but pays millions to give crappy answer.

    George Yeo, the person I used to respect, end up as one million dollars joker for the word he says.

  42. […] Debt of Honour: Singaporeâs Ties to Burmaâs Junta « A Deadbeatâ… wrote a fantastic post today on “Comment on Debt of Honour: Singaporeâs Ties to Burmaâs Junta by …”Here’s ONLY a quick extract […] […]

  43. shoestring said

    Let’s not be blinded or carried away by hatred. If we deny a man the medical treatment he seeks, are we not potential murderers ourselves? So he is a murderer. Killing a murderer is not murder? Does two wrongs make a right? Is that the only solution?

  44. David said

    shoestring Says:
    October 7th, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    “Let’s not be blinded or carried away by hatred. If we deny a man the medical treatment he seeks, are we not potential murderers ourselves? So he is a murderer. Killing a murderer is not murder? Does two wrongs make a right? Is that the only solution?”

    The question we be asking is
    “Why save a life of acknowledged murderer that continue to murder another thousand of innocent people ?”
    People who bear the blood of innocent people without guilt and conscience are not human being at all, to say the lest. Are we actually saving a savage or a human being ?

    Of course, if the gov and our really pathetic PM says “No one should deprived of medical treatment here”, does he really mean that “only those who are wealthy and contributed to economic monetary success of Singapore” ?

    The Junta is a ‘terrorist’ in his own countries, killing innocent people, and the only thing that he isn’t a terrorist in other countries, and therefore consider people worthy of medical treatment, but who is PM to judge them whether good or not, is the Junta determine by the wealth he has ? Is he just because there is some business relationship between Junta and Singapore that singapore gov feel that Junta will not do anything funny here.

    If that’s the case, does it means that if a terrorist aboard setup a business that contributed millions of dollar to Singapore gov but which does not harm terrorise local but his very own countries, Singapore gov is willing and happily to do business with him ??
    Common sense will tell us that the business he setup here may be used to fund the terrorist activities against his country and innocent people.

    Isn’t this the same as Junta ? So what you talking you, PM, MM , or whatever M’And’M ?

  45. shoestring said


    My sentiments are similar to yours. But we might be confusing two different aspects of the issue of medical treatment – ethics/morality and politics.

    Never mind what the PM said about the Hypocritic (or was it Hippocratic?) Oath. I don’t buy his argument. That’s politics.

    Personally, I do not advocate killing anybody for whatever reasons. Even if it is a despicable tyrannical murderer. I have watched the videos of Saddam Hussein’s execution and I have come to the conclusion that it must have taken a very hard hearted person to kill another. So what if he is dead, does it bring the innocent back to life? Will we be able to go on living with blood on our own hands? What will happen to humanity if we adopt the “a life for a life” approach to solving problems.

    Is killing the tyrant the only or best way to stop the violence? Who knows, the mercy shown to him might even haunt him for the rest of his life. That, to me, is worse than death.

  46. David said

    though it is always uniquely Singapore that one can hardly separate anything at all with politics. Politics is much entrenched into our daily life and become part of our life even though it might not seem obvious. For example, education, hospital, upgrading, economics, wealth, wellbeing, welfare is some of the weapons PAP party always cite to their advantages during election. Rising cost, inflation etc and other negative impact is just taboo during election by PAP. This are the ‘tools’ always used to gain supporter for their mandate. This is so because the whole country is actually run as though belonging to the ruling party fueled by daily propaganda from the established media.

    Even the morality in hospital seem dubious as it become a profit-orientated organization because the gahmen believe that there is no free lunch in the world, and people will continue to PayAndPay for good service. OUrc society is only as moral as our established leaders because it the leaders which influence the society and decide what’s best for you and me.

    Yet I still appreciated of what the gahmen do for public in reducing hospital cost, but I’m can’t help thinking that it is a reactive policy rather than proactive. If we public do not complain or whining, I will 100% say the gov simply will not doing anything at all because the gov tell us caring for the sick is a large cost to them.

  47. […] Debt of Honour: Singapore’s Ties to Burma’s Junta Five Singaporeans are more dangerous […]

  48. Simon Ng said

    Minister George Yeo claimed in parliament that cumulative investment by Singapore in Myanmar till end 2005 was only S$742 million.

    He must be wrong,and ex-trade & industry minister and a President scholar,SAF scholar,it is sad that his mastery of details is relly not up to the mark!

  49. […] Found out some interesting topics on Junta. Wikipedia has a few reference on it. But that didnt answer my question, what is Singapore’s connection with the JUNTA. Who the hell are they and what did our government do wrong? So I continued to google it and found some interesting topics that’s already discussed online. Apparently the Junta refered here are Myanmar’s Miltants. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: