Vivian Balakrishnan: Myanmar’s military can release Aung San Suu Kyi, sanctions won’t work

The minister warned of the impact that sanctions could have on Myanmar's civilians.

Julia Yeo | February 16, 2021, 08:02 PM

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Foreign Affairs minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb. 16) that he hopes for the release of Myanmar's political leaders, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, urging Myanmar authorities to "exercise utmost restraint" to avoid further injuries and loss of lives.

Recent developments in Myanmar "alarming"

In response to parliamentary questions from Members of Parliament Gerald Giam and Christopher Souza, Vivian said that Singapore hopes for the peaceful resolution and national reconciliation in Myanmar.

Giam and Souza asked if Asean will be working collectively regarding the situation in Myanmar, and if the country could be compelled to abide by the Asean Human Rights Declaration, as well as the Asean Charter.

The minister noted that the recent developments in Myanmar have been alarming, with several protesters injured and one succumbing to her injuries.

“There should be no violence against unarmed civilians, and we hope there will be peaceful resolution and national reconciliation in Myanmar," Vivian said.

The minister added that the stakeholders need to find a long-term peaceful political solution, including a return to its path of democratic transition, which the country had been developing in the past decade.

17 Singaporeans in Myanmar chose to return home

In response to Giam's queries on whether there has been an increase in the number of requests for consular assistance from Singaporeans in Myanmar following the coup, the minister shared that there have been only 17 Singaporeans so far who have chosen to return home.

Those Singaporeans returned home on flights on Feb. 5 and Feb. 12.

The Singapore embassy in Yangon has also maintained contact with Singaporeans in Myanmar, particularly those who are e-registered with the embassy, totalling some 500 individuals.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has also advised Singaporeans to avoid public gatherings and demonstrations, abide by local laws and regulations, and to monitor the news closely.

Widespread sanctions should not be embarked on: Vivian

Vivian added that while Asean has a longstanding policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of its member states, the Asean chair had still issued a statement “quickly” to reflect “the seriousness with which Asean views the developments in Myanmar”.

However, he did not support widespread sanctions on Myanmar, due to the impact it could have on the developing nation's civilians.

"In all my discussions, my phone calls, I’ve said that we should not embark on widespread, generalised, indiscriminate sanctions because the people who will suffer the most will be the ordinary people in Myanmar," the lawmaker said, in line with opinions expressed by other Asean leaders and officials.

The minister stressed that Singapore's relations with Myanmar are longstanding, and that Myanmar is a key member of Asean, adding that the future of Myanmar must be determined by her own people.

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Top image via CNA video