COS 2021: Myanmar Coup

Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: Thank you. Mr Chairman, Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan recently responded to questions on the situation in Myanmar. Following the coup by the Tatmadaw. He stated that an escalation of the situation will have serious consequences for both Myanmar and the region.

Indeed, reports that developments remain highly fluid contrary to hopes for greater stability. The death toll of protestors being killed by Security Forces has reportedly been increasing. And yesterday, it was reported at least 18 have been killed. This is disconcerting.

Dr Balakrishnan, in his earlier responses, has indicated a need for consensus to hold an ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Myanmar situation.

Given the continued uncertainty and tenseness of developments, will the Foreign Minister provide an update on Singapore’s position on the crisis? Will he also inform the House of Singapore’s role in facilitating the emergence of a consensus for a meeting, if there is one, and what we hope can be achieved from this meeting?

ASEAN’s ability demonstrate initiative on the Myanmar issue may be key. We speak repeatedly about ASEAN unity and centrality but that centrality only matters if it is meaningful and can make a difference. This is important because an effective ASEAN helps members like Singapore maintain our autonomy and a platform to make our voices heard.

Singapore is invested in ASEAN success. So, it is imperative for the Government to bring Singaporeans on board with what it is doing to support our ASEAN’s ability to play a practical and positive role when faced with unfolding situation in Myanmar. Political instability in the region, even away from Singapore, can have an impact for us here. 

Further, Southeast Asia is also a focal point or intensifying competition between the US and China, and any inability ASEAN to address such an ability could spur further contestation among major powers in our region. This may possibly cause severe and even irreversible divisions in ASEAN in ways that paralleled the recent crisis within the Pacific Islands forum. 

Calls in Myanmar for the boycotting of Singapore firms began after Dr Balakrishnan’s earlier answer to the House which included a line on separating business and politics. Our Government’s views, notwithstanding, perceptions in Myanmar and elsewhere in the world may differ. So, this has to be sensitively managed.

Finally, I would like to ask what is being done to reach Singaporeans who may be stranded in Singapore but are unable to contact the Embassy in the event of any connectivity issue. Being in a position to extend support may be especially critical in the event of a further escalation of violence and instability. Singaporeans in Myanmar should know of the contingency plans for extraction should the need arise.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1 March 2021

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