No 'significant funds' in S'pore from Myanmar firms & people: MAS

Statement comes as Myanmar activists claim the country's foreign reserves were parked in Singapore's commercial banks.

Kayla Wong | February 24, 2021, 01:42 AM

Regular surveillance of the banking system has not found significant funds from Myanmar companies and individuals in banks in Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Expects financial institutions to be vigilant

The central bank of Singapore said in a statement that it expects financial institutions to remain vigilant to any transactions that could pose risks to the institution, including "dealings with companies and individuals subject to financial sanctions by foreign jurisdictions".

In addition, MAS said it expects financial institutions in Singapore, as always, to comply with MAS regulations that implement United Nations Security Council resolutions, and "guard against fund flows that could be related to illicit activities".

MAS also stressed that it "closely supervises financial institutions to check that processes are in place for compliance and takes appropriate enforcement actions where there are serious lapses".

Myanmar activists call for military's foreign reserves to be frozen

The financial regulator's statement comes as advocacy group Justice for Myanmar claimed that US$5.7 billion (S$7.5 billion) worth of foreign reserves were deposited in Singapore's banks, such as DBS, OCBC and UOB.

They called for Singapore to freeze these foreign reserves so the junta could not use the funds to maintain "their violent rule" over the people.

The MAS statement did not reference the claim directly.

Singapore's status as the largest investor in Myanmar recently came under media spotlight as Myanmar activists started a social media campaign to boycott Singapore brands.

A few prominent businesses and individuals, such as Lim Kaling, the co-founder of gaming company Razer, had declared that they would be cutting their business ties with the Myanmar military.

U.S. sanctions on Myanmar's military

Members of Myanmar's military had been slapped with sanctions by the United States, which strongly condemned the coup and called for the release of detained National League for Democracy (NLD) members, including democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In the latest round of sanctions announced on Feb. 22, the U.S. had targeted two more members of the junta, Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken further stressed in a statement that the U.S. will "take further action against those who perpetuate violence and suppress the will of the people".

Vivian: "Widespread" sanctions will not work

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, however, has cautioned against imposing "widespread, generalised, indiscriminate sanctions", saying in parliament on Feb. 16 that the ordinary people in Myanmar will be the ones to "suffer the most".

He also pointed out that while Singapore is Myanmar's largest foreign investor, the major proportion of Singapore's investments in the country have occurred in the last five years, under the National League of Democracy's (NLD) civilian leadership.

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