The Myanmar junta has offered to be a “long-term supplier of sand, cement and granite to Singapore”. Since this offer has been announced so loudly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we can safely assume that the offer will be accepted.
I noticed that the caption under the picture in TODAY reads “Lending each other a hand”. Well, Myanmar is lending us a hand by selling us sand. I wonder what quid pro quo arrangement they could be expecting in return?
Perhaps a toned down rhetoric on their lack of progress on their Roadmap to Democracy? (Singapore’s pressure played no small part in getting Myanmar to pass on its ASEAN chairmanship in 2005.)
That we do not push for an ASEAN Human Rights Commission which would likely impact Myanmar the most? (So far only Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand have been pushing for that as part of the upcoming ASEAN Charter. Singapore has been very silent on it.)
That we do not ask them to free Aung San Suu Kyii and do not make statements criticising them (the same way as we criticise North Korea and Iran)?
That we jam all attempts by the US and European countries to take Myanmar to the UN Security Council? (Don’t underestimate the ability of our diplomats in New York. They’ve performed such feats before.)
In all likelihood, the proceeds from the sale of sand, granite and concrete will go almost directly into the pockets of the generals, via the companies that they own, and in the process prop up the regime the same way that the drug trade does. Sadly, because this will benefit Singapore’s economy, we can expect that moral considerations can take a backburner. Nevermind that this might be the same sand that has soaked up the blood of the thousands of civilians and monks that the military gunned down during the 8 August 1988 (8888) Uprising. (I have an ex-colleague who was a diplomat in Rangoon then who actually witnessed the students being fired upon.)