by ALTSEAN-Burma, 25 Oct 2007

Burma-BrieferThe briefer asserts that ASEAN countries must exercise their substantial influence on Burma’s military leaders to secure the delivery of genuine political and economic reforms, instead of using China as an excuse for inaction. The briefer reveals that:

* Burma relies on petrol and diesel supplies from Malaysia and Singapore to keep business running and military vehicles on the road. The military is the biggest consumer of fuel.

* Burma relies on trade with ASEAN for 51.3% of foreign exchange revenue, with gas sales to Thailand alone accounting for 48.4% in 2005/06.

* Burma relies on Thailand and Singapore as their biggest sources of new Foreign Direct Investment, constituting a total of 98.61% of FDI in the past 2 years.

* Burma relies on Singapore’s financial services to store and move the wealth that they drain away from Burma.

The briefer recommends an ASEAN freeze or even a slowdown on economic, material, and diplomatic support in order to shepherd the regime to political dialogue and the achievement of genuine reforms. Action should include a temporary freeze on large Burmese-held bank accounts and other financial assets in Singapore as part of a money-laundering review.

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This section on Singapore is from the 7-page briefer by ALTSEAN-Burma

Singapore

Those at the top of the SPDC rely on Singapore for personal health and financial services. Singapore has also provided training for more than 5,000 SPDC officials through the Singapore Cooperation Program (SCP). Singapore in particular has assisted the SPDC in undermining the impact of US and EU sanctions. When US sanctions began to harm the SPDC in 2003, the junta instructed state entities and private businesses to begin using euros for international transactions. The SWIFT Singapore office provided four Burmese banks with the expertise to set up new banking systems to make this possible.

Singapore has strongly denied allegations that it allows banks to keep illicit funds on behalf on the generals, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently saying that the country does not take “dirty money” and does not condone money laundering. However, Singapore has not clearly indicated how it has confirmed that large Burmese-held assets are not the ill-gotten gains of the junta and its cronies.

Singapore does well from its relationship with the regime. In 2005/6 Singapore’s exports to Burma were US$558.65 million, while its imports were $264.25 million. When Indonesia banned sand exports to Singapore in April 2007, they decided to import the sand (used for reclaiming land) from Burma instead. Singapore is also significant investor in Burma. According to official SPDC statistics, Singapore has injected over US$1.5 billion into Burma since 1988.

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