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Sunday, October 14

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong! Listen to your daddy!

Pundita has ragged on China and India for their role in supporting Burma's junta. Not to make Singapore feel left out or anything:
[...] by providing Burma's pariah junta with crucial material and equipment mostly denied by Western sanctions Singapore has helped keep the military government and its cronies afloat for 20 years, indeed since the last time the generals killed the citizens they are supposed to protect with industrial efficiency and brutality, as now. Without the support from Singapore, Burma's junta would be greatly weakened and perhaps even fail.(1)
Well! All Pundita can say about that is Singapore's prime minister had better listen to what his father, former PM Lee Kuan Yew, had to say about Burma's junta. To refresh, he said that Burma's generals were dumb and that they'd mismanaged Burma's economy so badly they could face revolt.

Yes but how can Burmese citizens revolt, with all the help the junta is receiving from Singapore?

And just a few days ago Pundita was calling for an Internet Wall of Shame that fingers foreign enterprises doing big business with despots. Maybe Singapore's Temasek Holdings and Singapore Technologies should go at the top of any such list for Burma.

[...] there is a group of government businessmen-technocrats in Singapore who will also be closely - and perhaps nervously - monitoring the brutality in Rangoon. Were they so inclined, their influence could go a long way to limiting the misery being inflicted on Burma's 54 million people.

Collectively known as Singapore Inc, they gather around the $150 billion state-owned investment house Temasek Holdings, controlled by Singapore's long-ruling Lee family. With an estimated $3 billion invested in Burma [...] Singapore Inc companies have been some of the biggest investors in and supporters of Burma's military junta - this while its Government, on the rare times it is asked, gently suggests a softly-softly diplomatic approach toward the junta.

When it comes to Burma, Singapore pockets the high morals it likes to wave at the West. [...]

From hotels, airlines, military equipment and training, crowd control equipment and sophisticated telecommunications monitoring devices, Singapore is a crucial manager and supplier to the junta, and Burma's economy. [...]

Much of Singapore's activity in Burma has been documented by an analyst working in Australia's Office of National Assessments. Andrew Selth is recognised as a leading authority on Burma's military. Now a research fellow at Queensland's Griffith University, Selth has written extensively for years on how close Singapore Inc is to the junta.

Often writing as "William Ashton" in Jane's Intelligence Review, Selth has described how Singapore has sent guns, rockets, armoured personnel carriers and grenade launchers to the junta, some of it trans-shipped from stocks seized by Israel from Palestinians in southern Lebanon.

Singaporean companies have provided computers and communications equipment for Burma's defence ministry and army, while upgrading the junta's ability to communicate with regional commanders - so crucial as protesters [took] to the streets of 20 cities in Burma. [...]

"Singapore cares little about human rights, in particular the plight of the ethnic and religious minorities in Burma," Selth writes. "Having developed one of the region's most advanced armed forces and defence industrial support bases, Singapore is in a good position to offer Burma a number of inducements which other ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] countries would find hard to match."

Selth says Singapore also provided the equipment for a "cyber war centre" to monitor dissident activity, while training Burma's secret police, whose sole job appears to be ensuring democracy groups are crushed. [...]

"This centre is reported to be closely involved in the monitoring and recording of foreign and domestic telecommunications, including the satellite telephone conversations of Burmese opposition groups," Selth writes.

Singaporean government companies, such as the arms supplier Singapore Technologies, dominate the communications and military sector in Singapore. Selth writes: "It is highly unlikely that any of these arms shipments to Burma could have been made without the knowledge and support of the Singapore Government." He notes that Singapore's ambassadors to Burma have included a former senior Singapore Armed Forces officer and a past director of Singapore's defence-oriented Joint Intelligence Directorate. "It is curious that Singapore chose to assign someone with a military background to this new member of ASEAN and not one of its many capable professional diplomats."

Selth writes that after Burma's 1988 crackdown, in which 3000 democracy protesters were killed, "the first country to come to the regime's rescue was in fact Singapore".

Describing Singapore's usefulness to Burma, [Singaporean diplomat to Burma, Matthew Sim] says "many successful Myanmar businessmen have opened shell companies" in Singapore "with little or no staff, used to keep funds overseas". The companies are used to keep business deals outside the control of Burma's central bank, enabling Singaporeans and others to make transactions with Burma in Singapore, he says.

Sim may be referring to junta cronies such as Tay Za and the druglord Lo Hsing Han. Lo is an ethnic Chinese, from Burma's traditionally Chinese-populated and opium-rich Kokang region in the country's east, bordering China. Lo controls a heroin empire and one of Burma's biggest companies, Asia World, which the US Drug Enforcement Agency describes as a front for his drug trafficking. Asia World controls toll roads, industrial parks and trading companies.

Singapore is the Lo family's window to the world, a base for controlling several companies. Lo's son Steven, who has been denied a visa to the US because of his drug links, is married to a Singaporean, Cecilia Ng. The two reportedly control a Singapore-based trading house, Kokang Singapore Pty Ltd. The couple transit Singapore at will. A former US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Robert Gelbard, has said half of Singapore's investment in Burma has been "tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han". (1)

There's more to this Aussie press report, which finishes with the tart observation that while vowing to impose financial sanctions on Burma's regime, "perhaps Prime Minister John Howard should be calling Singapore's bankers rather than Australia's."

The problem here is that Temasek Holdings has more than $20 billion invested in Australia. Oh what tangled webs weaves the globalized era in supporting tyrants!

1) Singapore a friend indeed to Burma, Sydney Morning Herald
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