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Further questions about Myanmar and t-shirts

Posted by theonlinecitizen on October 24, 2007

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the articles “Singapore’s arms sales to Myanmar not substantial : No deals in recent years ; weapons sold not suited to counter civilian unrest ; economic links limited, says George Yeo” (ST, Oct 23) and “MPs fire questions on Myanmar issue” (Today, Oct 23).

The first article reported on the answers given by Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo thus:

“While Singapore’s established policy has not been to divulge details of defence sales, he said that over the years, defence sales to Myanmar had not been substantial.

These had always “been carefully limited to items that are not suitable for countering civilian unrest”, he said. “There have not been any defence sales to Myanmar in recent years and, going forward, we will continue to behave in a responsible manner”. There is no arms embargo against Myanmar, but Mr Yeo said Singapore would comply should there be one sanctioned by the United Nations”.

I think the answer may need to be a bit more substantive. Is the cumulative defence sales to Myanmar for the period since the Junta came to power, a few hundred thousand dollars, a few million, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, billions ? What is the total sum involved ?

Since the amount is not substantial, I see no reason why the figure should not be disclosed.

Also, does it mean that since the Junta came to power decades ago, no ammunitions, small arms, bombs, tear gas, rifles, larger caliber weapons, tanks, armoured vehicles, etc, has ever been sold to Myanmar ?

Although Singapore is said to have had no deals with Myanmar in “recent years”, one would naturally have to ask: What is meant by “recent years”? 2 years? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?

While “Singapore’s established policy has not been to divulge details of defence sales”, surely an exception can be made, after all that has happened in Myanmar?

The Foreign Affairs minister also said that going forward, Singapore would “behave in a responsible manner” and would comply with any United Nations arms embargo, if there should be one. Does this mean that Singapore, in spite of global condemnation of the Myanmese regime, will continue to sell “items that are not suitable for countering civilian unrest”?

And how does the Singapore government “carefully” limit the sales of these “items which are not suitable for countering civilian unrest”?

Turning to economic links and trade with Myanmar, the minister said:

“Economic links with Myanmar were also limited. Trade last year amounted to $ 1 billion, or 0.1 per cent of Singapore’s total trade. Myanmar was 50th among trading partners, and cumulative total direct investments by Singapore firms at the end of 2005 was just $ 742 million.”

Whilst trade with Myanmar may be small because of Singapore’s large total volume of trade, I understand that we are Myanmar’s third largest trading partner, after China and Thailand. We may also need put this into context, in that China and Thailand share borders with Myanmar.

The minister also said that the “cumulative total direct investments by Singapore firms at the end of 2005 was just $742 million.” Was this for the year 2005 only, or is the sum for all cumulative investments since the Junta came to power?

In a channelnewsasia report, some 50 activists demonstrated outside the Singapore embassy in Malaysia calling for Singapore “to review its relations with Myanmar.” In this connection, a report by Asian Economics News (May 2001) reported that the Singapore government had signed a “bilateral investment guarantee agreement” with Myanmar.

4 days ago, the United States blacklisted “3 companies with strong links to Singapore” under its new sanctions against Myanmar. (link)

How does this affect the Singapore government’s “bilateral investment guarantee agreement” which it signed in 2001, as mentioned above?

T-shirts

On another note, I refer to the articles “Police request on T-shirts ‘probably an overreaction’” (ST, Oct 23) and “Prof Ho explains T-shirt incidents” (Today, Oct 23).

The former article states that:

“Mr Siew then asked what powers the officers had to ask the duo to go to the police station for an interview. Pro Ho said it was a request and the duo could refuse it”.

Did the officers inform the duo that it was only a request, and that they could refuse it?

If not, why not?

Since Prof Ho also said it was “probably an overreaction” by the police, will there be assurances that this will not happen again? Will steps be taken to ensure that officers do not request people to go to police stations for interviews, unless they are also informed at the same time that they can choose not to go?

By the way, was there any answer to NMP Siew Kum Hong’s question, “What is the total value of remittances from Myanmar into Singapore over the past 5 years ?”, or NCMP Sylvia Lim’s question asking “the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether and to what extent there are arrangements in place for military cooperation between Singapore and Myanmar”?

Read also: Transcript of reply by Minister George Yeo to Questions in Parliament on 22 October 2007 on Beyondsg.

And: All Burma Democratic Force of Malaysia’s Media release: A Memorandum to the Government of Singapore. (link)

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10 Responses to “Further questions about Myanmar and t-shirts”

  1. Eddie Loh said

    The answer is not so simple. Even if the gahment explains, you common peasants will not be able to understand? Why do you common peasants want to be confused?

    Remember how our CPF is used for Temasek oversea expansion.

  2. This might also be of interest to the author and TOC’s readers.

    Its one of my posts with regards to arms sales: http://pseudonymity.wordpress.com/2007/10/17/brothers-in-arms/

  3. blackshirt said

    This sentence is so crappy.

    “been carefully limited to items that are not suitable for countering civilian unrest”

    OK, it means that the items sold to Burma are meant for military use or not to use on civilians. It means that the sold items are for military use, if there is a war.

    But, if our bullets are sold for military use and not for countering civilian unrest, can anyone tell me if the bullets can differentiate between their enemies in a war and their civilians.

    Why would the Burmese junta buy something that cannot harm their enemies in the event of a military operation? If the items are supposed to harm their enemies, then the equipment can also harm civilians too.

    Bullets kill human beings, whoever you are…

  4. Leong Sze Hian said

    Transcript of Minister George Yeo’s reply to NMP Siew Kum Hong’s question : As for remittances, MAS does not track the amount of money remitted into or out of Singapore by any country. For an international business and financial centre like Singapore, funds can be transferred for various purposes including payments for goods and services, trades on the stock exchange, even for school fees. But MAS operates a strict and rigorous regime against money laundering, like all other leading financial centres. Banks and financial institutions in Singapore are required to institute strict procedures, including the need to identify and know their customers, and monitor and report any suspicious transactions. Our rules are vigorously enforced. Should there be links with illicit activity, MAS will not hesitate to take necessary action.

    Transcript of reply to NCMP Sylvia Lim’s question: Singapore has very few defence interactions with Myanmar. But we have to maintain links with the military because it is a key institution. These are largely limited to interactions at multilateral events such as ASEAN-related meetings, international defence exhibitions, and sports activities like the Army Half Marathon.

  5. blackshirt said

    Full Transcript of Reply by Minister George Yeo to Questions in Parliament on 22 October 2007

    http://app.mfa.gov.sg/2006/press/view_press.asp?post_id=3252

    Some information about remittances:
    The remittance agents need only to keep records for the remittance transactions, but do not need to report all transactions to MAS.
    MONEY-CHANGING AND REMITTANCE BUSINESSES ACT (CHAPTER 187)

  6. Leong Sze Hian said

    Oct 24, 2007 Straits Times Latest News
    Tharman doubts effectiveness of Myanmar sanctions
    NEW YORK – SOUTHEAST Asian nations should not impose economic sanctions on Myanmar despite the political upheaval there because such sanctions are not effective, Singapore’s Second Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Tuesday.
    A violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar last month sparked international outrage, inciting calls for action among Myanmar’s neighbours.

    But Mr Shanmugaratnam who is also the Education Minister said that satisfying as they might be, sanctions would not bring reconciliation.

    ‘We don’t think economic sanctions make sense, certainly not at this point,’ he said at a press briefing of finance ministers from key members of Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    ‘We should keep up external pressure, but the evidence so far has showed that economic sanctions have not worked in Myanmar.’ The suppression of the Buddhist monk-led street protests in Myanmar last month killed 10 people, according to the military junta that rules Myanmar. Western governments say the toll was probably much higher.

    The minister expressed support for a visit to the country by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari next month, aimed at jump-starting a dialogue between the government and the opposition. These efforts are a ‘key strategy,’ he said. — REUTERS

  7. blackshirt said

    TRANSCRIPT OF REPLY BY MINISTER GEORGE YEO TO QUESTIONS IN PARLIAMENT ON 22 OCTOBER 2007
    http://app.sprinter.gov.sg/data/pr/20071022990.htm

    Some information about remittances:
    Remittance agents only need to keep the records of the remittance transactions for 5 years and all transactions need not to be reported to MAS, unless when asked upon to do so by the authority.
    http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/cgi-bin/cgi_retrieve.pl?actno=REVED-187

    This Act is not clear about the amount of remittance that one can remit back to their home. I believe that alarms (to MAS) would be raised when suspiciously large amount of money is being transferred in our banks and financial institutions.

  8. […] Oct 2007 – The Online Citizen: Further questions about Myanmar and t-shirts – Mr Wang Says So: Bird Talk – Musings: De Souza’s Question on Grooming – Beyond SG: Replies […]

  9. blackshirt said

    A news about the amount of money carried by travellers.

    S’pore requires travellers with over S$30,000 to make declaration
    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/308019/1/.html

    Basically, nothing much about it. But on print copy of ST (2 Oct 2007) page H2, it seems that CNA did not say everything as in the print version.

    On the second paragraph, it states:

    “The rule also applies to those who send and receive money through cargo, post or other means, but electronic transactions are excluded.”

    Now, why money transferred electronically excluded? Does it mean that large electronic monetary transfers need not be declared?

    We know that electronic transfers are documented effectively and can be traced, if desired. But, the question here is will the authority be actively monitoring those large electronic monetary transfers done by undesirable entities.

  10. Leong Sze Hian said

    According to the Straits Times of 2 Nov,2007, of the 7 blacklisted firms, 3 are in Singapore and the other 4 in Myanmar!

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