Statement 175 Views

Open letter regarding Singapore’s response to business linked to Myanmar junta

August 22nd, 2023  •  Author:   200 organizations  •  10 minute read
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To: H.E. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Singapore

Open letter regarding Singapore’s response to business linked to Myanmar junta

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to take meaningful and concrete action to block the Myanmar military junta’s access to arms, dual-use goods, technology and funds, which are used in its ongoing campaign of terror against the people.

We specifically ask you:

to expedite and make public investigations into Singapore-based companies involved in and enabling the transfer of arms and dual-use goods and technology transferred, transited, shipped or brokered through Singapore to the Myanmar military;

introduce sanctions to prevent the direct and indirect transfer of arms, dual-use goods and technology to the Myanmar military;

block the Myanmar junta’s access to Singapore’s financial system through targeted sanctions.

Since its attempted coup on 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military has killed more than 3,800 people, detained more than 23,000 and displaced more than 1.6 million. The Myanmar military has scorched at least 70,000 homes and razed villages to the ground. They have weaponized and blocked humanitarian aid, depriving the people of food, water and basic needs. They have even attacked schools and hospitals. Compared to last year, there is a 33 percent increase in indiscriminate airstrikes in the first half of 2023, according to the UN. The Myanmar military can continue to commit these atrocities because countries including Singapore continue to allow—or fail to prevent—the transfer of arms, dual-use goods and technology to the military junta and continued access to their banking systems.

In our view, the best way to hinder the Myanmar junta from continued access to funds, arms, dual-use goods and technology is through an autonomous sanctions regime on Myanmar by Singapore that goes beyond a principled oral expression of commitment in response to investigations by the UN and human rights organizations.

As Your Excellency is aware, in 2023, several reports have raised concerns over the fact that Singapore is a major jurisdiction for the transfer of various items—in particular dual-use goods and technology—intended for use by the Myanmar armed forces. A May 2023 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar identified at least 138 Singapore-based firms that had acted as intermediaries for the Myanmar military, and highlighted how these firms had shipped arms and related goods worth $254 million USD to Myanmar between February 2021 and December 2022. This follows a report by the activist group Justice For Myanmar which named 38 Singapore companies and their directors and shareholders that have brokered arms and equipment to the Myanmar military and a report by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), that highlighted how Singapore continues to function as a strategic transit point for potentially significant volumes of items—including certain raw materials—that feed the Myanmar military’s weapons production industry.

We understand that since the release of these reports, investigations into the conduct of the companies have been initiated by your Government. We welcome these investigations and ask you to expedite them and make public the results.

The May 2023 report by the UN Special Rapporteur also noted that arms dealers move hundreds of millions of dollars through Singaporean banks to supply the Myanmar military. Many Myanmar companies—including companies directly associated with the junta—have offices in Singapore. It is routine practice for companies with direct ties to the Myanmar military to place funds in Singaporean banks. Despite some Western sanctions imposed, most of these companies continue to operate freely, providing a conduit of weapons, munitions and spare parts as well as dual-use items and technology to the junta and through the banking system. We note, in particular, the serious allegations that substantial foreign reserves of Myanmar are suspected to be held in Singapore, providing a financial lifeline for the junta.

The long-standing and well-documented reliance by military-linked companies on the Singaporean banking sector gives Singapore more influence on Myanmar than most other ASEAN member states. It is our view that the degree of cooperation from Singaporean banks will have a major impact on the effectiveness of sanctions on the Myanmar junta.

A legal memorandum from international barristers Felicity Gerry KC and Daye Gang, published by Justice For Myanmar, also concluded that Singapore has an international legal obligation “to investigate, prevent and cease transactions that amount to wrongful acts”, which are applicable to business transactions with the Myanmar military and its business interests. While we appreciate the circular reportedly issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) calling for enhanced due diligence measures to detect and mitigate the risks associated with higher-risk customers and transactions related to Myanmar, and the June 2023 statement by MAS noting that financial institutions should continue to be alert to the heightened risks arising from the situation in Myanmar, much more needs to be done. This includes targeted sanctions against military businesses and an autonomous sanction regime that will stop Singapore-registered companies directly and indirectly procuring arms and dual-use goods and technology for the Myanmar military.

On 14 February 2023, during a parliamentary hearing addressing the report by SAC-M, your Excellency confirmed Singapore’s commitment to not authorize the transfer of dual-use items which have been assessed to have potential military application to Myanmar where there is a serious risk that they may be used to inflict violence against unarmed civilians, and that the government of Singapore would not hesitate to take action against those who contravene relevant laws, including Singapore’s Strategic Goods (Control) Act. This commitment is significant as Singapore is the third largest source of arms and dual-use goods for the Myanmar military after Russia and China. However, it is concerning that half a year later, your Excellency’s expressed commitment has only been communicated orally, and we have not yet seen a policy commitment that includes consequences for non-compliance.

During the parliamentary hearing, you noted that specifically on military sales, there had been no transfers of arms to Myanmar in recent years. While this is welcome, the problem, as we see it, is not a question of transfers of conventional arms to Myanmar, but the numerous times that dual-use goods and technology that originates from or transits Singapore—whether transferred directly or indirectly to the junta—has ended up in the hands of the Myanmar military.

Your Excellency, we therefore ask Singapore to adopt and implement export restrictions on Myanmar. This would follow the recent precedent of restrictive measures applied by your government to Russia, pursuant to which applications to export military items, controlled electronics, controlled computers, and certain telecommunications and encryption items to Myanmar would be rejected. In addition, financial measures targeted at designated military-controlled banks, entities and activities should be put in place to restrict the military’s ability to finance its acts of terror against the people. Recent sanctions imposed by the US on Myanmar’s main portals of foreign currency payments, the state-owned Myanma Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB) should set the example in this regard. A failure by Singapore to act would sustain the current crisis whereby MFTB and MICB facilitate foreign-currency exchange within Myanmar and enable transactions between the military junta and foreign markets to buy arms, dual-use goods, technology and jet fuel, and to undermine the effectiveness of the US sanctions on these entities.

While Singapore continues to call for immediate cessation of violence under ASEAN, Singapore-based businesses and the financial system’s involvement in the transfer of weapons and dual-use goods to the Myanmar military directly undermines ASEAN’s credibility. We the undersigned CSOs strongly urge Your Excellency to set a precedent for the region by taking robust and tangible actions to stop Singapore businesses and financial institutions from enabling and being complicit in the Myanmar junta’s ongoing atrocities. As ASEAN is conducting a review of implementation of the failed Five-Point Consensus, these meaningful steps of Singapore will assist ASEAN in reforming the current ineffective approach and replacing the Consensus with concrete actions to address the crisis effectively.

Sincerely,

A total of 200 organizations, including 4 groups that can’t be named because of security reasons, have signed this letter.
1 8888 Generation  (New Zealand)
2 ၈၈ငြိမ်ချမ်းရေးနှင့်ပွင့်လင်းလူ့အဖွဲ့အစည်းထားဝယ်ခရိုင်
3 Ah Nah Podcast – conversations with Myanmar
4 All Burma  Democratic Face in  New Zealand
5 Anti-Junta Mass Movement – AJMM
6 Associations of United Nationalities in Japan
7 Auckland  Kachin  Community  NZ
8 Auckland Zomi  Community
9 Aung San Suu Kyi Park Norway
10 Basic Education Students & Youths Association (BESYA)
11 Boycott Military’s Pocket
12 Burma Campaign UK
13 Burmese  Community Group  (Manawatu, NZ)
14 Burmese  Rohingya  Welfare  Organisation  New  Zealand
15 Burmese American Community Institute 9BACI)
16 Burmese Canadian Network
17 Campaign for a New Myanmar
18 CDM Support Team Mandalay (CSTM)
19 Chin Community  of Auckland
20 Chin Community in Norway
21 Citizen of  Burma  Award – New Zealand
22 Citizens of Burma Award(Buffalo Chapter)
23 COBA UAE
24 CRPH and NUG Supporters Ireland
25 CRPH Funding Ireland
26 CRPH Support Group, Norway
27 CRPH Support Group, Norway and members organizations endorses
28 Democratic Party for a New Society, Norway
29 Democratic Youth Council ( ဒီမိုကရက်တစ်လူငယ်ကောင်စီ )
30 Doh Atu – Ensemble pour le Myanmar
31 Dream Hope Goals Media Group
32 Dunedin Myanmar  Community New Zealand
33 Enemy Air Route Channel
34 Federal  Myanmar  Benevolence  Group  (NZ)
35 Federal School
36 Federation of Workers’ Union of the Burmese Citizen in Japan ( FWUBC )
37 Free Rohingya Coalition
38 General Strike Committee of Nationalities (GSCN)
39 General Strike Coordination Body – GSCB
40 Global Myanmar Spring Revolution ( GMSR )
41 Hero Behind Bars
42 HTY Scout Channel
43 Human Right Defenders and Promoters(Palaw)
44 Information & Scout News (Hlaing)
45 Insein Scout Channel
46 Integria, z.s.
47 International Association, Myanmar-Switzerland (IAMS)
48 International Campaign for the Rohingya
49 Japan Myanmar Help Network – JMHN (comprising of over 40 youth groups in Japan)
50 Justice For Myanmar
51 K’cho Ethnic Association
52 Kachin Association Norway
53 Kachin State Civilian Movement- KSCM
54 Kamayut Scout Channel
55 Kanbauk Defense Force (KBDF)
56 Karenni  Society  New  Zealand
57 Karenni Association – Norway
58 Karenni Wellington Community
59 Kyauktada Strike Committee
60 Kyimyindaing Scout Channel
61 La Communauté Birmane de France
62 LA2M
63 Lanmadaw,Latha & Pabedan Scout Channel
64 League for Democracy in Burma( Japan )
65 Legal Aid for Human Rights (Southern Shan State)
66 LGBTIQ (လိင်စိတ်ခံယူမှုကွဲပြားသူများ) သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
67 Mayangone News
68 MIIT ကျောင်းသားကျောင်းသူများ သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
69 Minority Affairs Institute (MAI Myanmar)
70 Muslim Youth Network
71 Myanmar  Community Christchurch New  Zealand
72 Myanmar  Gonye  (New  Zealand)
73 Myanmar Action Group Denmark
74 Myanmar Catholic Community In Norway
75 Myanmar community in Italy
76 Myanmar Community in Norway
77 Myanmar Democratic Force  in Denmark
78 Myanmar Engineers – New  Zealand
79 Myanmar Global Support Foundation ( MGSF )
80 Myanmar Hindu Community – Norway
81 Myanmar Muslim Revolution Force
82 Myanmar Students’  Union in New Zealand
83 Nelson Myanmar  Community New  Zealand
84 New Zealand  Doctors for NUG
85 New Zealand  Zo  Community  Inc.
86 New Zealand Karen Association
87 NLD Organization Committee (International) Norway
88 No Business With Genocide
89 NOK Information & Scout Echo
90 North Dagon & East Dagon News
91 Norway Falam Community
92 Norway Matu Community
93 Norway Rvwang Community
94 Overseas Mon Association. New  Zealand
95 PDF Support ( Vancouver – Canada )
96 Peace for Burma ( Vancouver ) Canada
97 Progressive Muslim Youth Association-PMYA
98 Progressive Voice
99 Rangoon Scout Network
100 Rohingya Community in Norway
101 Rvwang Community Association  New  Zealand
102 Save Myanmar  Fundraising Group  (New Zealand)
103 Save Myanmar Israel
104 Shan  Community  (New  Zealand)
105 Sitt Nyein Pann Foundation
106 South Dagon Scouting Infos (SDG)
107 Southern Dragon Myanmar
108 Support group for Democracy in Myanmar ( the Netherland )
109 Tamwe Nway Oo Channel
110 Tenasserim Students Unions Network – TSUN
111 Thaketa & Dawbon Scout Channel
112 Tourism Committee
113 U.S. Campaign for Burma
114 Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
115 United States Chin Coalition (USCC)
116 Universities Kachin Literature and Culture Association- Yangon (Yangon JLH)
117 Volunteers in Myanmar
118 We support NUG-NB
119 Wellington Chin Community ( New Zealand )
120 Wellington Myanmar community
121 Yangon Revolution Force – YRF (Soft Strike Community)
122 Youth for Democratization of Myanmar (UDM)
123 Youth Scout For Democracy (YSD)
124 YWTC(yangon)
125 Z Fighter News
126 Zomi Christian Fellowship of Norway
127 Zomi Community Norway
128 ကျန်းမာရေးမိသားစု – မန္တလေး (Medical Family – Mandalay)
129 ကွန်ပျူတာတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
130 ချမ်းမြသာစည်မြို့နယ် လူထုသပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
131 စိန်ပန်း သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
132 ဆေးတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
133 ဆေးဘက်ဆိုင်ရာနည်းပညာတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများ သမဂ္ဂ
134 ဆေးဝါးတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
135 တမ္ပဝတီ လူထုသပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
136 တိုက်ကွမ်ဒို အားကစားအသင်း
137 တိုင်းရင်းဆေးတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
138 တိုင်းရင်းသားလူငယ်များ အထွေထွေသပိတ်ကော်မတီ
139 တောင်သာလူထုလှုပ်ရှားမှုကော်မတီ
140 ဒေါင်းစစ်သည်
141 နည်းပညာတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
142 နည်းပညာတက္ကသိုလ်(ရတနာပုံဆိုင်ဘာစီးတီး)ကျောင်းသားများ သမဂ္ဂ
143 နွေဦးတော်လှန်ရေးဘာသာပေါင်းစုံကွန်ရက်
144 နားထောင်ရင်းလှူပေးပါ။
145 ပညာရေးမိသားစု (စစ်အာဏာရှင်ဆန့်ကျင်ရေး ပညာရေးစစ်ကြောင်းများ ချိတ်ဆက်ညှိနှိုင်းရေးကော်မတီ)
146 ပြည်ကြီးတံခွန်သပိတ်
147 ပုဂ္ဂလိက မူကြိုဆရာ၊ ဆရာမများအဖွဲ့
148 ဘာသာပေါင်းစုံ သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
149 ဘုရားကြီး ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးသပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
150 မကွေးလူထုတိုက်ပွဲကော်မတီ / Magway People’s Revolution Committee
151 မန္တလာတက္ကသိုလ် ကျောင်းသားကျောင်းသူများသပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
152 မန္တလာတက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
153 မန္တလေး ကဗျာဆရာများသမဂ္ဂ (Mandalay Poets’ Union)
154 မန္တလေး ကုန်စည်ဒိုင်သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
155 မန္တလေး၊ တက္ကသိုလ် ဒီဂရီ၊ ကောလိပ် ဆရာ၊ ဆရာမများ၊ ဝန်ထမ်းများ သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
156 မန္တလေးကွန်ပျူတာတက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
157 မန္တလေးတက္ကသိုလ် ကျောင်းသား ကျောင်းသူဟောင်းများ သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
158 မန္တလေးတိုင်းဒေသကြီးလွှတ်တော် ကိုယ်စားပြုကော်မတီ (Committee Representing Mandalay Region Hluttaw)
159 မန္တလေးနည်းပညာတက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
160 မန္တလေးနိုင်ငံခြားဘာသာတက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
161 မန္တလေးပုဂ္ဂလိကတက္ကသိုလ် ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ (MPUSU)
162 မန္တလေးမြို့အခြေစိုက် လူထုသပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
163 မန္တလေးမဟာမိတ် သပိတ်တပ်ပေါင်းစုစစ်ကြောင်း
164 မန္တလေးလူငယ် သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
165 မန္တလေးသပိတ်အင်အားစု
166 မန္တလေးအင်ဂျင်နီယာ တပ်ပေါင်းစု
167 မန္တလေးအင်ဂျင်နီယာများအဖွဲ့ (Mandalay Engineer Group)
168 မန္တလေးအရပ်ဖက်အဖွဲ့အစည်းများ
169 မြင်းခြံလူထုလှုပ်ရှားမှုကော်မတီ
170 မြတောင် သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
171 မြန်မာနိုင်ငံဘဏ်အလုပ်သမားသမဂ္ဂများအဖွဲ့ချုပ် (Bank Trade Unions Federation of Myanmar – BTUFM)
172 မြန်မာ့မီးရထား တိုင်းအမှတ် (၃) CDM ဝန်ထမ်းများ သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
173 မြန်မာသတင်းအချက်အလက်နည်းပညာတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး) ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
174 မွတ်စ်လင်မ်လူငယ်များအဖွဲ့
175 မဟာအောင်မြေမြို့နယ် စုပေါင်းလူထုသပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
176 မေမြို့ ပင်မအထွေထွေသပိတ်အင်အားစု
177 ရတနာပုံတက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ (ရ.တ.က.သ)
178 ရန်ကုန်အခြေစိုက်တက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားသမဂ္ဂများ (တကသများ-ရန်ကုန်) | Alliance of Students’ Unions Yangon (ASU-Yangon)
179 ရေဘဝဲ (ပြည်သူ့အကျိုးပြု လူငယ်အဖွဲ့အစည်း)
180 လူငယ်ကဗျာဆရာများသမဂ္ဂ
181 သံဃသမဂ္ဂ (မန္တလေး)
182 သပြေညို သတင်းလွှာ
183 သမဝါယမတက္ကသိုလ် ကျောင်းသူ၊ ကျောင်းသားများ သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
184 သရက်ချောင်းမြို့နယ် ပြည်သူကာကွယ်ရေးပြောက်ကျားတပ်ဖွဲ့
185 သွားဘက်ဆိုင်ရာဆေးတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများ သမဂ္ဂ
186 သားဖွားသင်တန်းကျောင်း(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
187 သူနာပြုတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
188 သူနာပြုသင်တန်းကျောင်း(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
189 အ.ထ.က (၇) ကျောင်းသူ၊ ကျောင်းသားဟောင်းများ သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
190 အ.လ.က (၁၂) ထခွဲ၊ အခြေခံပညာကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ (အ.က.သ)
191 အဖမ်းဆီးခံပြည်သူများ ကိုယ်စားပြုသပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
192 အမျိုးသားဒီမိုကရေစီအဖွဲ့ချုပ် (မန္တလေးတိုင်း)
193 အမျိုးသားယဉ်ကျေးမှုနှင့် အနုပညာတက္ကသိုလ်(မန္တလေး)ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ
194 အလုပ်သမားသမဂ္ဂများအဖွဲ့ချုပ်
195 အောင်ပင်လယ် ပင်မသပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း
196 အောင်မြေသာစံ ပညာရေးကျောင်းပေါင်းစုံ သပိတ်စစ်ကြောင်း


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