Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Singapore’s Goh Raises Suu Kyi’s Trial in Naypyidaw Talks


Singapore's Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong urged Burma’s junta leaders at a meeting in Naypyidaw on Tuesday not to allow the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to affect the national reconciliation process, and to ensure that next year’s general election is free and fair.

A report on the meeting in the Singapore newspaper Straits Times, quoting Goh’s press secretary, said the Singapore minister pointed out during a two-hour meeting with junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe, Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein and other Naypyidaw leaders that while Suu Kyi’s trial is Burma’s domestic affair it also has an international element that should not be ignored.

Goh Chok Tong had a frank discussion with Snr-Gen Than Shwe at their meeting in the capital Naypyidaw. (Source: Straits Times)

The trial has evoked international concern and condemnation. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has issued a strongly-worded statement through its current chair, Thailand, saying the trial puts Burma's honor and credibility at stake.

Another issue dominating Tuesday’s meeting was Burma's democratization process leading up to preparations for the 2010 election.

Goh stressed that the elections must be inclusive and that the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Suu Kyi, must be part of the process of national reconciliation.

According to reports in the Singapore press, both Than Shwe and Thein Sein assured Goh that the 2010 election will be free and fair. Thein Sein also said that Burma was aware it had to address the concerns of three groups—the Burmese people, Asean and the international community, including the UN.

Singapore, one of Burma's biggest foreign investors, has close relations with the Burmese junta.

Over the past two decades, according to Jane's Intelligence Review, Singapore has sent the junta guns, rockets, armored personnel carriers and grenade launchers. Singaporean companies have also provided computers and networking equipment for Burma's defense ministry and army.

Some analysts believe that despite US financial sanctions, Burma's military leaders and their cronies still hold accounts in Singaporean banks, while the Money Authority of Singapore is unlikely to advise its banks to cut ties with Burmese firms.

Singapore is also a favored destination for regime officials seeking medical treatment.

Goh’s visit comes at the invitation of Thein Sein, who visited Singapore in March. He previously visited Burma in 1998.

Singaporean Minister for Manpower Gan Kim Yong, Government Parliamentary Committee Chairman (Foreign Affairs & Defense) Michael Palmer and other senior officials are accompanying Goh on his Burma visit.

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