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Singapore has worked to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar: MFA in response to UN expert

Singapore has worked to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar: MFA in response to UN expert

Military officers stand atop trucks loaded with missiles during a parade to commemorate Myanmar's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on Mar 27, 2023. (Photo: AP/Aung Shine Oo)

SINGAPORE: Singapore has worked to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in response to a United Nations (UN) expert who reported that entities in the country provide "critical supplies" to the junta's weapon factories.

An MFA spokesperson said on Friday (May 19) that Singapore has taken a “principled position” against the Myanmar military’s use of lethal force against unarmed civilians.

This came after a report published on Wednesday by UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews, which said the junta has imported at least US$1 billion in arms and raw materials to manufacture weapons since it carried out a coup in February 2021.

About US$254 million of supplies were shipped from dozens of entities in Singapore to the Myanmar military from February 2021 to December 2022, said Mr Andrews, adding that Singapore banks have also been used “extensively” by arms dealers.

He also said he provided, in early March this year, detailed findings to the Singapore government about arms shipments from Singapore-based entities to Myanmar. The information included names of more than 45 entities as well as the items that were shipped and the approximate value of the items.

Mr Andrews said he decided not to list the names of the entities in his report, in order to allow time for the Singapore government and other UN member states to take action against them.

“We appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to provide information to aid Singapore’s investigations into whether any offences were committed under Singapore law. Singapore will not hesitate to take action against any individual or entity which contravenes our laws,” said MFA on Friday.

“In the meantime, the Singapore government remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance to support the people of Myanmar. We will continue to work with our fellow ASEAN member states and the United Nations to facilitate peace and national reconciliation in Myanmar.”

In his report, Mr Andrews noted that there were no indications the Singapore government has approved or is involved in the shipment of arms and materials to the Myanmar military.

But he urged the government to review trade with Myanmar and “act decisively" on the entities using Singapore as a base from which to deliver arms, spare parts, manufacturing equipment and raw materials to the junta.

“If the Singapore government were to stop all shipments and facilitation of arms and associated materials to the Myanmar military from its jurisdiction, the impact on the junta’s ability to commit war crimes would be significantly disrupted,” he added.

MFA said Singapore does not authorise 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.

Myanmar has seen widespread violence between soldiers and rebels since the coup in February 2021. More than 2,000 people have been killed, according to local monitoring groups.

In February, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in parliament that Singapore has not sold military weapons to Myanmar for a “very long time” and has effected a ban on the sale of arms there.

He was responding to a question from Member of Parliament Dennis Tan (WP-Hougang) on a January report by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, which comprises independent experts and former UN officials. 

The report stated that Singapore functions as a "strategic transit point for potentially significant volumes of items" including raw materials that contribute towards military production by the Myanmar military.

Dr Balakrishnan said then that many of the assertions made by the council pertained to economic activities that predate the coup.

He noted that Singapore had voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution which called on member states to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar. 

Source: CNA/mi(jo)


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