Monday, May 19, 2008

ASEAN, please expel Burma

Dear Friends,

I sent the following letter to the Forum page last nght in response to Foreign Minister George Yeo’s statements about Burma. Yes, I know it was the eve of Vesak Day but I was really "Tak Boleh Tahan"(Malay for "cannot take it anymore") and could not just ignore the crimes of these Burmese junta and enjoy my holiday!

In brief, Yeo said,

“We must respect the autonomy of countries and accept the fact that they know local situations better than foreign people ever can”


“I don’t see how this (ie force-fed aid) can be done because if we try to do that, it will only make the situation worse and it will increase the suffering of the people in Myanmar”

Coincidentally, Alex Au has also just posted an article (read Burma should be suspended from ASEAN) of a similar vein calling on ASEAN to suspend Burma’s membership. I think suspension is too lenient- expulsion would be more appropriate.

I am not too hopeful that my letter will see the light of day in the print edition- but where there is life, there is hope!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

PS: Can someone forward me the digital version of the Sunday Times article that quoted George Yeo saying those inappropriate statements? Thank you

The letter to the Editor of MSM (Mainstream Media) Forum Page

19 May, 2008

Dear Editor,

I am very disappointed by the sentiments expressed by our Foreign Minister George Yeo.

He said in response to reporters’ concern about the inexplicably poor response of Burma’s junta to do more for its own people and whether aid can be force-fed to this ASEAN nation,

“We must respect the autonomy of countries and accept the fact that they know local situations better than foreign people ever can”


“I don’t see how this (ie force-fed aid) can be done because if we try to do that, it will only make the situation worse and it will increase the suffering of the people in Myanmar”

ASEAN had seen it fit to invite Burma to be a member but membership must entail both privileges and obligations. If any member ceases to discharge her duties to her citizens, more must be done by ASEAN to encourage this member to fall in line with internationally accepted standards. If a member remains intransigent, expulsion must be an option to seriously consider.

If ASEAN does nothing, it will risk being labelled at best an “old boys’ club” and at worse a collaborator of a human rights violator.

What must Burma do before we say “Enough is enough”? Its leaders had disregarded an election that it had lost, kept a celebrated Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi , incarcerated for decades and now this non-chalant attitude to its people’s sufferings.

Truth be told Minister, whatever anyone does cannot “increase the suffering” more than what Burma’s poor citizens are undergoing now.

ASEAN must stop sitting on its hands and desist from giving Burma’s military junta any more encouragement to go about business as usual!

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan

Link: ASEAN meets to discuss about Burma ( No Action Talk Only - NATO)


Gerald said...

Hi Dr Huang,

Check out the Asean statement from the special meeting on Myanmar:

It says "Myanmar will accept international assistance" if it is led/coordinated by Asean, and "the Myanmar Government has agreed to accept the immediate despatch of medical teams from all the ASEAN countries".

Do you think that salvages Asean's reputation in any way? Or are they just empty promises by the Myr regime?

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Gerald,
It is a welcome development. I would rather be proven wrong and the Burmese people get much needed help and freedoms than be proven right and the status quo.
Forgive me for being sceptical about the junta's actions.
I still hope that my letter gets printed as Burma needs much more opening up than letting in ASEAN's medical teams.
Burma needs genuine opening up starting with the freedom of AASK!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Huang,

I like your letter but it was not hitting hard enough. I'm sure you and others can tell that GY's statement is akin to accepting massive genocide. It would never have come from the mouth of a EU foreign minister over the Bosnia-H situation or the Kosovo conflict. Such a shame.

Perhaps should should have brought in the case of intervention in the Balkans which to my opinion, is the best case of intervention in the last decade.


Anonymous said...

If Asean stood to see Burma retaliate against unarmed monks, what more will Asean do when a natually occuring cyclone hits?
The ends justifies the means. that's thier mantra.. sounds familiar here too if you asked me(Thankfully in different degrees of course).

Sylvester Lim said...

Singapore stands on very thin ice in terms of moral values. Although it is Singapore's turn to chair Asean, it is hypocritical of them to criticize the Burmese government when they continue to do business with them and supply weapons & ammo.

Anonymous said...

ASEAN's reputation has been tarnished by the Myanmar Dictatorial Junta many times before. This particular case of pretense is also another such instance, though some people are eager to spin it the other way round.

What is the use of an agreement that the majority member states surrender to the demands of the Dictatorial Junta?

George Yeo is really singing out of tune!


Anonymous said...

Asean should expel Singapore in my opinion. The govt does not have the guts to do what is morally right and grant days off to our Indonesian and Philippino domestic workers. Indonesia and Phillipines should withdraw their maids from Singapore until our govt decides to take care of them. For heaven's sake - until our Singapore citizens do what is morally right, then let us open our mouths to talk about other Asean countries. It is the same thing where seat belts for children are concerned, we know we have to do the right thing, but money concerns are putting a full stop to our govt going out to do the right thing. Same for our maids.....

panter92 said...

You know what? This will probably be the first and last time I'm posting here unless...

Anyway, regarding the topic.

Myanmmar is a member of ASEAN, an roganisation committed to regional cooperation.

Susupending member states just like that will lead to resentment and souring of bilateral relations. Will regional cooperation be achieved this way?

People who suggest such moves are
mainly those with an impulsive or impetus demenour. They tend to not think of the consequences of such a move.

The consequnces are further souring of relations, further isolating the state, and make it a tall hurdle for regional cooperation on a larger scale.

Think.. analyse the situation before acting or suggesting...

nofearSingapore said...


Much has happened since I posted this .

1. The Burmese had allowed ASEAN aid workers in and asked that ASEAN be the coordinating organization for the rest of the world.

2. Tan Shwe met UN Sec Gen Ban and agreed to accept all aid.

3. Burma junta extended Aung Sung Suu Kyi detention again.

JT: The Mainstream media is controlled by the govt. To have any chance of getting anything critical printed, the writer has to write with moderate language. Unfortunately ( as in this letter), it still gets rejected. Worse still, sometimes the edit out the critical comments leaving only laudatory comments making the writer sound like a sycophant!

Sylvester Lim: In parliament, the minister has confirmed in an answer to Siew Kum Hong that the govt does not sell arms to Burma and will monitor to see if any private Singapore companies do the same. I hope this clears the issue once and for all. Let those who claim that Sg has hypocritically sold arms to Burma show us proof.

Garry: I am just as frustrated as you. Let’s be patient with George. I think he also has conscience just that …

Anon: 1.27: Yes I am upset about no days off for the maids. Makes a mockery of Sg’s wish to be first world country. This is third world morality.

Panter92: It is your prerogative to post or not to post comments anywhere in blogosphere. So you are not happy that I am not happy about ASEAN’s stand on Burma? You think everyone in the world must agree with your view point about everything.

If we do not try to change things with a little pressure here and there, we would still be living in the middle ages. The Warsaw pact will still be controlling Europe and there will be lots more of Burmas and North Koreas in the world!

panter92 said...

Well, I am back here. Got an email about the reply.. so..


The Warsaw pact collapsed because of the Soviet government inability to support it. It was going bankrupt, especially after our dear nobel prize winner Gorbachev's implementation of perestroika and glasnost.

Although these two policies quickened the pace of decline and deficits, had Gorbachev not been so ambitious, he might have succeeded.

Furthermore, the Warsaw pact doesn't consit of a single state, nor is it part of any organisation, so I see little link here..

Tell me, how many states, when pressured, relented? When I say relented, I mean without military invasions or conflicts, like in Iraq. N.K.? I don't think so.

I am not trying to impose my viewpoint on others. It's just that I find expelling Myanmmar from a regional organisation too extreme. This is not a simple matter of dismissing a miniter(although the latter is also complicated).

ASEAN is currently headed by Singapore. PM Lee is the leader. Do you think that relations between the two states can be established in just a couple of days? There shall be wide-spread resentment among the Myanmmar populace and this might even rally the population to the general's side, worsening the relief situation.

There are better ways to apply pressure. Those who support the expulsion or suspension of Myanmmar are trying to fell a bamboo tree by cutting the stem instead of digging up the root.