By Stephanie Phang

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) — A planned protest in Singapore against Asian leaders’ “tacit” approval of Myanmar’s fatal crackdown on demonstrations fizzled today when only three students braved the city-state’s tough laws against marches.

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An overseas student from the University of Singapore speaks to the media and pedestrians during a demonstration against the military junta of Myanmar, near the venue of the 13th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in Singapore, Nov. 19, 2007. Photographer: Jonathan Drake/Bloomberg News

The three protesters were followed by 19 reporters and photographers in an area of the city surrounded by 1,000 armed police and soldiers. The protest was planned to coincide with a meeting of leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Myanmar.

Singapore, where a protest gathering of more than four people needs to be approved by police, is hosting the 13th Asean leaders’ summit. City authorities have banned protests against Mynamar.

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Police monitor and film three University of Singapore overseas students protesting Myanmar’s military junta, venue of the 13th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in Singapore, Nov. 19, 2007. Photographer: Jonathan Drake/Bloomberg News

“A lot of people wanted to come, but they were afraid of the repercussions,” said Daniel Babiak, a student from the National University of Singapore. The university also called them to warn them about Singapore’s laws, he said.

The three students, wearing red T-shirts and holding candles, were protesting against Asean’s lack of response against the Myanmar junta’s September crackdown on its largest anti-government demonstrations, which killed more than 100 people, according to the United Nations.

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Demonstrators light candles to protest against Myanmar’s military junta, near the venue of the 13th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in Singapore, Nov. 19, 2007. Photographer: Jonathan Drake/Bloomberg News

Asean leaders have rebuffed calls for sanctions against Myanmar over the violence.

Singapore, which has restricted public assembly since communal violence killed 36 people in the 1960s, said it can’t make exceptions for overseas visitors protesting at the meetings.

Tough Penalties

Singapore metes out fines for petty crimes such as littering and has a reputation for tough punishments. Demonstrators can be jailed.

More than a decade ago, Singapore’s caning of American teenager Michael Fay on vandalism charges strained relations with then U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The three students, who were heading toward the Shangri-La hotel, where the leaders are meeting, were stopped by security officials and warned before they could reach the venue. The three held a candlelight vigil at a corner near the hotel instead.

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Police warn University of Singapore overseas students demonstrating against Myanmar’s military junta against entering the vicinity of the Shangri-La Hotel, venue of the 13th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in Singapore, Nov. 19, 2007. Photographer: Jonathan Drake/Bloomberg News

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