Singapore Calls on Burma to Release All Political Detainees

By Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong is a writer based in Singapore.
February 7, 2022Updated: February 7, 2022

On the anniversary of the military coup in Burma, also known as Myanmar, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) urged Burmese military authorities to follow through on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Five-Point Consensus and release all political and foreign prisoners.

In a statement on Feb. 1, the MFA noted that conditions in Burma have worsened over the year since the military seized power. The death toll in protests since then is at least 1,500 people, according to United Nations human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

“We have documented 1,500 people who have been killed, but this is only in the context of protests,” Shamdasani said. The figure includes 200 who were “killed due to torture in military custody.”

“This 1,500 does not include people who were killed due to the armed conflict … We do understand that they are in the thousands.”

No Progress Made in ASEAN’s 5-Point Consensus

Meanwhile, the MFA stated, “Singapore remains deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar, and disappointed by the lack of progress in the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus.”

The Five-Point Consensus (pdf) is an agreement reached by Burmese military junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and the leaders of ASEAN member states during the organization’s leaders’ meeting on April 24, 2021.

“We urge the Myanmar military authorities to swiftly and fully implement the Five-Point Consensus, including by facilitating the Special Envoy’s visit to Myanmar to meet with all the parties concerned,” the MFA said in its statement.

The consensus called for an end to the violence in Burma, a special envoy and delegation from ASEAN to visit the country and meet all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution, and humanitarian assistance to be rendered through the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance.

Epoch Times Photo
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Bintan, Indonesia, on Jan. 25, 2022. (Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore)

The military junta, however, hasn’t followed through on the agreement, and ASEAN hasn’t invited Hlaing to subsequent top-level meetings since late 2021, Radio Free Asia reported.

After Cambodia took over ASEAN’s chairmanship from Brunei for 2022, its prime minister, Hun Sen, visited Burma on Jan. 7 on a two-day trip at the invitation of Hlaing for talks “on bilateral and multilateral cooperation and recent developments in ASEAN” with the Burmese military.

In a top-level bilateral annual meeting between Singapore and Indonesian leaders on Jan. 25, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “We noted that no significant progress has been made implementing ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus since it was adopted in Jakarta in April last year.

“We are committed to helping Myanmar reach a durable and peaceful resolution in the interests of its people. But it is essential for the ASEAN chair and his Special Envoy to engage all parties involved.”

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said, “Indonesia and Singapore share the same view on the importance of implementing the Five-Point Consensus.”

“This Consensus is a decision that ASEAN has taken at the highest level and should be upheld by all.”

A week later, on Feb. 2, ASEAN released a statement (pdf) noting the “reports of continued violence and deterioration of [the] humanitarian situation” in Burma and called for the Burmese authorities to “take concrete actions to effectively and fully implement the Five-Point Consensus.”

Political, Foreign Detainees Should Be Released

In MFA’s statement, it also called for “the release of all political detainees including U Win Myint, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and foreign detainees,” and urged the Burmese military authorities “to avoid actions that would be inimical to eventual national reconciliation in Myanmar.”

On Feb. 3, Burma’s military filed a new corruption charge against Suu Kyi, the latest of about a dozen filed against the 76-year-old Nobel laureate since the military ousted her elected government and arrested her and top members of her National League for Democracy Party.

Reuters contributed to this report.