Here is an edited extract of Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s remarks at the meeting of Asean foreign ministers on Tuesday (March 2):
The millions of Myanmar people from all walks of life who have taken to the streets are determined to return their country to democratic governance. They want their voices to be heard. And Singapore, like many countries, hopes to see national reconciliation and stability in Myanmar. We, therefore, call on the military authorities in the strongest terms to urgently seek a negotiated compromise to the current situation.
The alternative is prolonged instability and backsliding on the progress Myanmar had achieved with great effort and with the support and participation of the military since 2011.
Singapore has always upheld the principle that the future of Myanmar must be determined by her own people. We have supported Myanmar’s democratic transition in the last decade and we will continue to do so. We hope to see an outcome that is in accordance with the interests and the will of the people of Myanmar.
Singapore has also urged Asean’s external partners not to impose broad-based economic sanctions that will harm the ordinary people of Myanmar. In the current climate, foreign investors, including in Singapore, are beginning to re-evaluate their investments in Myanmar. This will impact the welfare and the livelihood of the people of Myanmar and the long-term development of Myanmar.
Over the years, Asean as a bloc has consistently demonstrated solidarity with Myanmar by insisting that external partners be open to engaging all 10 Asean member states collectively.
We have always stood by Myanmar and repeatedly urged our partners to engage Asean as a whole, and stressed the need for them to engage, rather than isolate, Myanmar.
We hope that Myanmar similarly will reciprocate by not attempting to prevent Asean from engaging our partners at this critical juncture. If Asean as a group refuses to engage our external partners, this would force them to find other arrangements to engage the region. This would be a severe blow to Asean centrality, and call our relevance as a grouping into question.
Singapore has longstanding ties with Myanmar and its people. We earnestly want Myanmar to succeed in its path towards democratic transition and national reconciliation.
A journey with great promise, that raised expectations amongst the younger generation.
More than half of the population of Myanmar are below the age of 30. You would understand why the weight of expectation and hope lies now on the shoulders of the military authorities. I hope that the representative of the military authorities will convey this message back to the current military leadership.
We just want the best for you and your people. This can be achieved only if you have honest, frank dialogue amongst yourselves in Myanmar. The rest of us cannot do this for you. We can be helpful, we can be constructive, but you need to do this yourself.