Sep 27 Statement by ASEAN Chair, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers had a full and frank discussion on the situation in Myanmar at their Informal Meeting this morning in the UN and agreed for the Chair to issue this Statement. They were appalled to receive reports of automatic weapons being used and demanded that the Myanmar government immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators. They expressed their revulsion to Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win over reports that the demonstrations in Myanmar are being suppressed by violent force and that there has been a number of fatalities. They strongly urged Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and seek a political solution. They called upon Myanmar to resume its efforts at national reconciliation with all parties concerned, and work towards a peaceful transition to democracy. The Ministers called for the release of all political detainees including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers expressed their concern to Minister Nyan Win that the developments in Myanmar had a serious impact on the reputation and credibility of ASEAN. They noted that Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has spoken to his ASEAN counterparts over the past day, and will be writing to Senior General Than Shwe.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers gave their full support to the decision of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Myanmar. They welcomed FM Nyan Win’s assurance that a visa would be issued to Mr Gambari in Singapore. They asked the Myanmar government to cooperate fully and work with him. Mr Gambari’s role as a neutral interlocutor among all the parties can help defuse the dangerous situation. The Ministers urged the Myanmar government to grant him full access to all parties in Myanmar, as they had done in the past.

Statements, and more statements. To be fair, put into perspective, ASEAN’s latest statement is slightly more strongly worded than usual. It’s good that PM Lee is writing directly to Than Shwe, Myanmar’s top dictator. I hope it contains even stronger words than the above statement.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters at the UN that “pressure from Asean is the strongest tool we have” to stop the violence. I hope ASEAN leaders understand the weight of responsibility that the grouping has to prevent further violence against civilians.

Singapore needs to demonstrate its leadership in this crisis, just like it did in the wake of the 2004 Asian Tsunami. Miss this boat, and we can be sure that the international community will write off both us and ASEAN as credible players in the world.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

One thought on “Sep 27 Statement by ASEAN Chair, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo”

  1. There is a joke circulating in town,

    Question: “what does ASEAN, CASE and PTC have in common?”

    Answer: “they are all impotent. CASE is useless at fighting for consumer rights. PTC is useless at ensuring low transport fare and ASEAN is useless as a grouping in the international scene”

    Cruel as the above assertion is but that is what ASEAN stands for today, it has proven impotent in the face of the annual haze that the region experienced and it has proven useless again with Myanmar. The policy of non-intervention had been taken too far to the letter than to the spirit.

    Granted in international relationship, its interests and not principles that matters, maybe I am an idealist, but I do believe that principles can win us more allies than interest (at times).

    Yes, ASEAN really need to get cracking on Myanmar before we become the laughing stock in the international scene.

Comments are closed.