Singaporeans strongly reject Myanmar generals

From CNA:

Myanmar’s military government has “strongly rejected” a statement by the Association of Southeast Asian nations condemning the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, state media said Monday.

Myanmar accused Thailand, which issued the statement one week ago as the rotating chairman of the 10-member bloc, of interfering in its internal affairs, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

“This statement issued by the alternate ASEAN chairman — which is not in conformity with ASEAN practice, incorrect in facts, interfering in the internal affairs of Myanmar — is strongly rejected by Myanmar,” it said.

“It is sadly noted that the alternate ASEAN chairman failed to preserve the dignity of ASEAN, the dignity of Myanmar and the dignity of Thailand,” said the statement, which was also carried on state-run television and radio.

The ASEAN statement expressed “grave concern” over the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, a rare step by the group which hardly ever speaks out on the domestic political issues of its members, including Myanmar.

It is quite rare to hear a public rebuttal from the Myanmar government against ASEAN. The fact that they have taken this step indicates that they have been quite stung by ASEAN’s statement. At least is shows that the generals are not deaf to ASEAN.

Continue reading “Singaporeans strongly reject Myanmar generals”

Loser generals

From the wires:

Myanmar junta distributes foreign aid – with generals’ names on it

YANGON (Myanmar) – MYANMAR’S military regime distributed international aid Saturday but plastered the boxes with names of top generals in an apparent effort to turn the relief effort for last week’s devastating cyclone into a propaganda exercise.

The United Nations sent in three more planes and several trucks loaded with aid even though the junta took over its first two shipments. The government agreed to let a US cargo plane bring in supplies on Monday, but foreign disaster experts were still being barred entry.

State-run television continuously ran images of top generals – including the junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe – handing out boxes of aid to survivors at elaborate ceremonies.

One box bore the name of Lt Gen Myint Swe, a rising star in the government hierarchy, in bold letters that overshadowed a smaller label reading: ‘Aid from the Kingdom of Thailand.’

‘We have already seen regional commanders putting their names on the side of aid shipments from Asia, saying this was gift from them and then distributing it in their region,’ said Mr Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, which campaigns for human rights and democracy in the country.

‘It is not going to areas where it is most in need,’ he said in London.

What a bunch of sad losers these idiotic generals are. Now we know why they are holding up aid agencies’ access to their suffering people — they are too busy pasting their stupid names on the boxes.

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Appeal for help for Myanmar

The reclusive Myanmar authorities are slowly revealing the horrifying extent of the destruction caused by the Tropical Cyclone Nargis, which hit the country over the weekend.

The latest reports were that 22,500 Myanmarese people have perished, with 10,000 dead in one city alone. 41,000 others are still missing and at least 25,000 homes have been lost.

Relief organisation World Vision estimates that over 2 million people have been hit by the effects of the cyclone. James Tumbuan, World Vision’s National Director in Yangon said, “Yangon totally collapsed. Getting drinking water is a real problem.”

Tumbuan said thousands of people are now camped in government schools in and around Yangon.

The Singapore Government has pledged US$200,000 for relief efforts in Myanmar.

I’m sure much more will be needed. I’d encourage those of us with the means to help out too. In these situations, the best way to help is to donate money to reputable aid organisations who are able to reach the victims, both during the immediate aftermath as well as during the reconstruction phases.

World Vision is one such charity which I regularly donate to. Donations can be made via credit card, Internet banking or cheque. Please click here for more details.

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ASEAN has a key role to play in Myanmar crisis

This is an excellently balanced commentary on Myanmar/Burma by the International Crisis Group. Unlike most Western commentaries on Myanmar, it contains none of the sabre-rattling and calls for sanctions which have proven wholly ineffective. At the same time, it takes a different tone from that of ASEAN leaders, who seem content sitting back and saying there’s nothing that they can do about Myanmar because their influence is “limited”.

The only point I disagree with is that China’s influence over the Myanmar generals is limited. From what I understand, China is the number one supplier of arms and trade (a lot of it in the blackmarket) to Myanmar. Without those arms and that economic lifeline, the junta’s hold over the country would be diminished. China wants to curry favour with the Myanmar generals to prevent rival India from gaining more influence over them and threatening their supply lines to the Bay of Bengal.

Speaking of which, the author failed to mention about how India, the world’s largest democracy, can play an influential role in resolving the Myanmar crisis.

But overall a great article.

A Chance for Change in Burma
by John Virgoe, International Crisis Group

10 February 2008
The Boston Globe

Four months after crushing massive street protests, Burma’s generals seem as entrenched as ever. There are few workable options for a way forward. Twenty years of Western sanctions haven’t worked. Neither has 20 years of “constructive engagement” by Burma’s neighbors. It is time to try something else.

A three-tiered approach – with a division of labor between the United Nations, Burma’s neighbors, and the wider international community – holds the best prospect of launching a process of reconciliation and broader reform.

The first tier would build on the work of the UN secretary general’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari. He has been able to establish a reasonable relationship with all the key players in Burma and abroad, and it therefore makes sense for him to coordinate the diplomatic efforts. Within Burma, his key role is to focus on political reform and national reconciliation between the government, the democratic opposition under Aung San Suu Kyi, and the ethnic groups. This will require sustained, low-profile mediation efforts. Retaining the confidence of the generals may mean it is sometimes better to leave public denunciations of their human rights record and other failings to others.

The second key tier would be informal regional talks. For years, Burma’s neighbors have taken heat for their defense of Burma, which has seriously damaged ASEAN’s relationship with the West. Now is the time for them to call in their favors with the regime.

Indonesia is particularly well-placed to take a lead. It is keen to show progressive leadership, and it carries weight in the region and in Burma. Its recent transition to democracy, reducing the military’s political role, and its experience with separatist conflict have obvious relevance.

Regional talks on Burma, based on the prospect of its reintegration into the region, should address the need for long-term stability, democratic reforms, and transparent economic policy. Without joining the generals in their paranoia, the participants will need to reassure them that Burma’s stability and territorial integrity are not threatened.

Western nations are generally reluctant to accept that others are sometimes better placed to take a lead. But Burma is such a case. It is possible that the junta might agree to constructive actions with a group consisting of, for example, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and China. It is inconceivable that they would do so if the United States or EU were present.

But the wider international community has a vital role to play too, providing the context for the regional talks and the UN’s mediation efforts. This would mean keeping human rights at the top of the agenda; developing a set of escalating sanctions and incentives to encourage progress and punish recalcitrance by the regime; and monitoring the regional talks to ensure they do not degenerate into an excuse for inaction.

A donors’ forum could help address the urgent problems of hunger, poverty, and disease. It could also start contingency planning for a transition to democracy. The crisis in Burma goes beyond politics. After decades of conflict, institutional failure, and poverty, the country suffers deep social divisions, incompetent and corrupt governance, collapse of the education system, deep-rooted structural poverty and a health crisis of major proportions.

The creation of a donors’ forum would also send a powerful message to Burma that there is an alternative to hostile relations with the outside world.

Finding a way forward is complicated by three persistent misperceptions. The first is that ever tighter sanctions can force change. But the generals are used to ostracism, and they are not going to be forced to give up power. The second is that China holds the key, if only it could be persuaded to exert its influence. China’s influence is important, but it can be exaggerated. China has been as frustrated as anyone with the generals’ resistance to outside persuasion.

The third misperception is that all Burma needs is an end to the junta’s rule. But Burma faces real problems of internal conflict and instability – including conflicts with ethnic secessionists which have raged ever since independence. Military rule has also caused most formal and informal institutions to wither. Even many in the democratic opposition accept that progress will require close cooperation with the army. The junta’s so-called road map to democracy, though wholly inadequate, could be viewed as an initial offer for discussion.

Change will require compromises, and will be slow at best. There is a small window of opportunity to try something new. Burma’s neighbors, backed by the international community, should seize the moment.

John Virgoe is South East Asia project director at the International Crisis Group.


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Singapore can learn from Myanmar’s opposition

From the Straits Times, 14 Oct:

On Saturday, three prominent activists in the student-led uprising the army put down with an estimated loss of 3,000 lives in 1988 were detained in one of the many raids still being conducted by police. They face long jail terms.

Htay Kywe has already spent 15 years in jail, Mie Mie, a woman activist, seven years and Aung Thu, the third arrested, five years. Aung Gyi, another activist, was arrested separately.

Ko Min Aung, a member of detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, was arrested in Taunggok when he got home from an NLD meeting on Saturday.

‘The police took him, grabbing his arms as soon as he got home. They did not even allow him to take a change of clothes,’ his wife told Reuters on Sunday.

I am simply amazed at the grit and determination of the Myanmar opposition activists. After spending 15 years in a Myanmar jail (I’m sure conditions in the jail there must be horrendous), they are still willing to continue their quest to achieve democracy for their fellow countrymen.

Often, when Singaporeans are asked why so few people want to join the Opposition or civil society, the common refrain is that the government has created a “climate of fear” and that people are afraid of the consequences. Look at these Myanmarese. Despite the real climate of fear there, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) is still alive and active, and not lacking heroes who are willing to step forward to make a difference. Singaporeans have no excuse, really.

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Singapore leaders send condolences to Myanmar leaders on death of their PM

PM Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister George Yeo have both written to their counterparts in Myanmar to express their condolences on the passing of their prime minister, General Soe Win. This is pro-forma for close neighbours and fellow ASEAN members. The following are their condolence messages:

Text of Message from PM Lee Hsien Loong to Acting PM Lieutenant General Thein Sein,13 October 2007

His Excellency Lieutenant General Thein Sein
Acting Prime Minister
Union of Myanmar

Dear Excellency

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Prime Minister General Soe Win.

I recall the warm hospitality that Prime Minister General Soe Win had accorded to me and my delegation during my introductory visit to the Union of Myanmar in March 2005.

On behalf of the Government of Singapore, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the Government and people of the Union of Myanmar.

Yours sincerely

LEE HSIEN LOONG

Text of Message from Minister George Yeo to Minister for Foreign Affairs U Nyan Win, 13 October 2007

His Excellency U Nyan Win
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Union of Myanmar

Dear U Nyan Win

I would like to express my deepest condolences to you on the passing away of Prime Minister General Soe Win. He fought his illness to the last with courage and calm. He was a strong supporter of greater ASEAN integration.

Yours sincerely

GEORGE YEO

I don’t think the people of Myanmar need any condolences on the death of their so-called prime minister. But since diplomatic protocol requires it, I thought George Yeo’s letter was better — short and almost meaningless.

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UN Security Council deplores use of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar

The full text of the UN Security Council statement on Myanmar, 11 Oct 07 (emphasis mine):

The Security Council welcomes the recent mission by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser to Myanmar Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, reaffirms its strong and unwavering support for the Secretary-General’s good offices mission as mandated by General Assembly resolution 61/232, and expresses its appreciation for the personal engagement of the Secretary-General.

The Security Council strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar and welcomes Human Rights Council resolution S-5/1 of 2 October 2007. The Security Council emphasizes the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees. It also calls on the Government of Myanmar and all other parties concerned to work together towards a de-escalation of the situation and a peaceful solution.

The Security Council stresses the need for the Government of Myanmar to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups, in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations. The Security Council encourages the Government of Myanmar to consider seriously Mr. Gambari’s recommendations and proposals. The Security Council also calls on the Government of Myanmar to take all necessary measures to address the political, economic, humanitarian, and human rights issues that are the concern of its people and emphasizes that the future of Myanmar lies in the hands of all of its people.

The Security Council welcomes the Government of Myanmar’s public commitment to work with the United Nations and the appointment of a liaison officer with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The Security Council stresses the importance that such commitments are followed by action. It acknowledges that the Government of Myanmar had invited Mr. Gambari to Myanmar. It underscores its support for his return as early as possible, in order to facilitate concrete actions and tangible results. The Security Council urges the Government of Myanmar and all parties concerned to cooperate fully with Mr. Gambari.

The Security Council welcomes the important role played by the ASEAN countries in urging restraint, calling for a peaceful transition to democracy, and supporting the good offices mission. It notes that the good offices mission is a process, and encourages the sustained support and engagement of the international community in helping Myanmar.

The Security Council remains seized of the matter.

This marks a significant shift in China and Russia’s stance on issues such as this — growing evidence that relentless pressure and campaigning against the Myanmar junta and its supporters does have an effect.

S’pore Ambassador calls for Myanmar’s suspension from ASEAN; MM calls generals "dumb"

Straits Times, Oct 6, 2007

Suspend Myanmar from Asean
By Barry Desker, For The Straits Times

LAST week’s crisis in Myanmar makes it imperative that Asean move beyond statements to action.

The 1997 Asean decision to admit Myanmar under the current military leadership without any conditionality was a mistake. Myanmar took shelter under Asean’s wings but there was no commitment by the junta to open up the economy or restore its fledgling democracy. Frankly, Myanmar has been an albatross around Asean’s neck for the past decade.

Asean broke new ground on Sept 27 when the Asean foreign ministers agreed to a statement by the current Asean chair, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo, stating that they were appalled to receive reports of automatic weapons being used to quell the demonstrations in Myanmar and demanded that the Myanmar government immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators. They strongly urged Myanmar to seek a political solution and to work towards a peaceful transition to democracy, and called for the release of all political detainees, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Asean ministers recognised that what the junta has done is unacceptable. Asean should now go further. It is time that Myanmar was suspended from the privilege of Asean membership.

As Asean’s leaders will be adopting the Asean Charter to give the organisation a legal personality when they meet in Singapore on Nov 18, Asean needs to adopt clear standards of behaviour for its members.

Key provisions of the Charter will call for the promotion of democracy, human rights and obligations, transparency and good governance and strengthening of democratic institutions. But Asean needs to agree on what it will do if a member blatantly flouts these conventions.

Previously, it had adopted the practice of raising its discomfort with developments in Myanmar privately at meetings with Myanmar leaders and at informal retreats of Asean ministers, where no official records were kept.

Since its founding, Asean’s formal position was that every member had the right to lead its existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion. This principle of non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of one another helped each state to develop its own identity in the first years of the grouping’s existence.

The primary concern of each member from 1967 was that it should be allowed to forge its own post-colonial identity.

Memories of Indonesia’s Konfrontasi policy towards Malaysia and hostility to post-independence Singapore, the bitter Singapore separation from Malaysia, the Philippines’ claim to Sabah and Thai fears of spillover from the conflicts in Indochina shaped Asean’s handling of domestic developments in the region. An emphasis on developing mutual confidence, understanding the different perspectives of each member and creating an awareness of the regional environment and regional sensitivities marked interactions in the early years.

In 1967, Asean leaders were more attuned to the political environment of the former metropolitan countries and needed to become familiar with their neighbours.

This process of developing cohesion and the habit of cooperation received a boost from the challenge posed by the Vietnamese invasion and occupation of Cambodia in December 1978. Asean’s resolute response to the invasion and ability to build an international coalition opposed to the intervention marked a high point for the policy of non-interference. It meant supporting the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia but it also led to international credibility and recognition for Asean as the only Third World regional grouping able to influence United Nations debates and shape the conflict negotiation process.

In 1967, a policy of non-interference and non-intervention also made sense to the post-colonial regimes in Southeast Asia as they were faced with domestic insurgencies by communist revolutionary movements assisted by China.

As the Asean states sought improved ties with China after the historic Nixon visit to China in 1971, calls for an end to Chinese support for the communist parties in the region were coupled with the need to uphold the principles of non- interference and respect for the sovereignty of the region’s states.

Forty years later, geopolitical realities have changed. The end of the Cold War undermined the logic of the policy of non-intervention and non-interference. Doctrines of humanitarian intervention and ‘the responsibility to protect’ are increasingly the basis of decision-making in the UN Security Council, especially as the impact of bloodshed and the consequences of riots, revolutions and bombings are covered hour by hour on television screens and in widely circulated blogs and on the Internet.

In 1988, the scale of the much larger crackdown by the Myanmar military only became known several weeks later. Today, these images are transmitted instantaneously around the world by mobile phones and YouTube.

As long as Myanmar is part of the highest councils of Asean, the region will have a credibility problem when it seeks to address issues of humanitarian concern elsewhere around the globe.

Not only is the junta a failure when it comes to ensuring Myanmar’s economic development, it has also failed to build a cohesive society or ensure a political transition from military rule.

Myanmar does not play an effective role within Asean either. When former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad succeeded in getting Asean approval for Myanmar’s admission in 1997, it was believed that Myanmar’s participation would lead to learning by example: As Myanmar interacted with Asean states, it would realise that outward-looking policies, increased foreign investment and expanded trade, tourism and other exchanges would lead it to move in the direction of a more open society increasingly integrated with the rest of South-east Asia. These hopes were soon dashed.

As the Singapore co-chair of the Singapore/Myanmar senior officials working group on economic issues, I realised in 1998 that we were going nowhere. As we were preoccupied with the Asian financial and economic crisis, we decided not to proceed with these meetings as our hosts were more interested in taking us on a week-long jaunt to gem mines and tourist attractions than engaging in serious exchanges on policy issues.

As Asean moves towards the establishment of an Asean Community based on the three pillars of a Security Community, a Socio-Cultural Community and an Economic Community, can it afford to have a member seen as having a government that has failed to ensure the well-being of its people not just recently but since it joined Asean?

Old Asean hands will say that Myanmar is part of Asean and should be a member. Yes, but only when Myanmar can uphold its commitments. Until then, the forthcoming Asean Summit should agree on the suspension of Myanmar’s membership.

The writer is Dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

Mr Barry Desker is not just the Dean of RSIS, but also a former Ambassador to Indonesia and the current Non-Resident Ambassador to the Vatican. Kudos to Ambassador Desker for taking this bold stand calling for Myanmar’s suspension from ASEAN!

Consider
ing Singapore’s public stand has been that Myanmar must remain within the ASEAN family no matter what, it is rather unusual for a former career diplomat and such a senior member of the Establishment to take this contrarian position. It is unlikely he would have “broken ranks” like this had he not gotten tacit support from many other members of the Establishment in Singapore.

In addition, MM Lee Kuan Yew was quoted in the Straits Times (to appear on 10 Oct) describing Myanmar’s ruling generals “as being rather ‘dumb’ when it comes to managing the country’s economy” and “will not be able to survive indefinitely”.

Already, several months ago, the Singapore Government decided it would not defend Myanmar at the UN any more because of its refusal to show any meaningful progress on its “Roadmap to Democracy”. Now, such strident calls from a “non-government academic” could be a prelude to an even more significant shift in Singapore’s public position on Myanmar.

There is no better time to ratchet up the pressure as now. If Singapore and ASEAN miss this window of opportunity to pressure the generals to compromise, we could be looking at another 20 years of brutal military suppression and economic disasters before the next uprising.

Sydney Morning Herald article on Singapore "disproportionate, unbalanced…misleading"

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.

Rational and pragmatic foreign policy does not mean it always works

ringsei wrote a blog post titled Sg’s Myanmar policy is rational and pragmatic. It was a pretty accurate articulation of Singapore’s foreign policy, particularly towards Myanmar:

Other than a statement and a letter, there really is nothing much Singapore can do since ‘we have very little leverage over the internal development there.’ Bearing in mind the above definition of pragmatism [doing what works; where what = x; when x = nothing], doing nothing is pragmatic.

Therefore, based on the three assumptions above, Singapore’s foreign policy towards Myanmar is rational and pragmatic. Such policy may be morally bankrupt and abhorrent but it is still rational and pragmatic.

Here is my response:

As a former MFA officer (writing in my personal capacity), I’m cautiously supportive of pragmatic foreign policy. Yes we should do what works. But pragmatism has been used to support every policy made by our Govt — moral or not, working or not. “Pragmatism” led us to admit Myanmar to Asean. “Pragmatism” guided our failed policy of constructive engagement of the military junta.

Yes, I support a rational and pragmatic foreign policy. I also support foreign policy that works. Our Myanmar policy has not worked. Therefore the pragmatic response would be to change that policy.