A reader, “Indochina“, posted a very well-analyzed comment on my blog post, “Myanmar junta leader’s family reportedly in Singapore” (Oct 2). This was in response to a Sydney Morning Herald article, “Singapore, a friend indeed to Burma” (Eric Ellis, SMH, Oct 1), which I linked to in my original blog post.
I’m reproducing it below because it is such a good piece on its own:
The actions of the Burmese junta are repulsive and beyond contempt and deserve the universal condemnation it is receiving. My friends there have suffered greatly and have seen family and friends die in the last uprising. In a heartbeat, I would be all for sending in an ASEAN peacekeeping force to mitigate the unbridled tyrannical power.
Nevertheless, I take issuance with Eric Ellis on his article. Its not that there isn’t a small element of truth in what he writes, but it’s disproportionate, unbalanced and a bit misleading.
Although he is well known writer, there is a sense that he writes with some underlying Australian chauvinism – sentiments which seem to be shared some of his fellow countrymen. The same sentiments are evoked in reading comments from Quantas, Telstra and so on. In any case, Ellis’s article has been carried with great speed through the Oceanic press which seems to indicate some popular position.
Perhaps in the Australian psyche, there’s a fundamental insecurity which arises from an inability to handle Asia rising, including ASEAN, in which Singapore stands as a prototype of increasing success – with many many warts and failings, but certainly not the Nee Soon whorehouse that one suspects that Ellis would prefer Singapore to have remained.
His previous articles – also criticisms of Singapore – the hanging of the Australian drug runner, the Shin Corp involvement in Thailand; were all tinged with some sense of the personal ire.
Why not talk about Thailand or the UK which are by far the top investors in Burma? Or castigate the Japanese, French, Belgians and Chinese who are also there. In the following “dirty list”, there are many nationalities to be accused, the least of which are Singaporeans. http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/dirty_list/dirty_list_details.html
And why not make it clear that, by and large, Singapore involvement has been in economic development with the airport with new hotels and development of tourism. Or even that Burma and Singapore have long been linked and that ties goes back to the 19th century and this is evidenced in the earliest Singapore road names – Rangoon, Mandalay, Pegu, Moulmein, all testify to this.
Why not look at possible outcomes and compare this with Singapore’s investment into Vietnam, which at one time was the largest investor, and how this in its own way helped trigger the economic boom that is making Vietnam the second fasted growing nation and that this boom is resulting in increasing individual freedoms – and how this was ASEAN’s overall objective of engaging with the whole of Indochina from the mid 90’s.
He writes that without Singapore’s support the Burmese Junta would weaken and fail; that’s nonsense – the Burmese army is 3 million people and they are paid by the oil revenues from the UK.
Looking at some of the accusations Ellis makes, contrast this with what Burmanet (Burmanet.org) which is an online resource on Burma – and which is not afraid to say offensive things about the junta – has this to say about Tay Za.
“He knows that the regime has no future and is plagued with internal fighting. He also knows that his close ties with the top dogs make him vulnerable….Sources also report that Tay Za is keeping an eye on Deputy Snr-Gen Maung Aye, the army commander-in-chief, who has reportedly taken a dislike to him.”
Its not that I know anything personally about Tay Za or Lo or for that matter anyone in any way related to them, its just that the reporting is basically prejudiced and unbalanced in such a way as to be offensive.
With regards to the drugs trade in Burma, let us not forget that it was 2 divisions of the Kuomintang who were ordered by Chiang Kai Shek into northern Burma to develop the drugs business to fund the nationalist army. “To fight a war, you need guns. And to buy guns, you need money. In these mountains, the only money is opium. (General Tuan, speaking about why his Nationalist Chinese (KMT) troops were involved in the opium trade in Upper Burma)”. Go check it out, these guys were CIA funded
Finally, in considering Ellis’s accusation of Singapore’s complicity in perpetuating the Burmese junta, lets look at Australia’s high morals.
With regard to East Timor, Australia gave Indonesia economic and military assistance throughout the 24-year occupation and advocated on its behalf in the international community. The occupation resulted in the deaths of about a third of its East Timor’s population who got bombed with Napalm, with women raped by the thousands, and many tens of thousands more beheaded, tortured or simply disappearing. The report of the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) concluded that Australia was influenced by a desire to get the most it could out of maritime boundary negotiations affecting oil and gas reserves.
Ellis would do well to “take out the log from his eye first”
Thanks Indochina for the comment.