Before I start writing about my view, I think this calls for the need of a disclaimer to be put over here. First, I admire Aung San Suu Kyi a great deal, I'm really moved by what she believes in, and what has she done for her people, and most of all I'm extremely in awe of how much she has sacrificed for her people. That to be said, I also must make it clear that I am well read about this issue, and have even written a paper on her, so I'm not one of those ignorant fools out there expressing ignorant remarks.
This has been a very big issue right at our doorstep lately. With the crackdown on the Burmese monks and continued house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, many people have been criticising out government on not doing anything to help our neighbours in Myanmar. Trawling the web and reading blogs of the commonfolk, many have expressed their desire for the Singapore government and the whole of ASEAN to call for heavy sanctions against Myanmar to force them to relent their heavy-handedness. Especially lately, there's been an email from a top Burmese official's son mocking Singapore for allowing him to continue living his high life a la Paris Hilton.
I must say that that guy is a complete obnoxious moron who totally doesn't deserve anything like this, but what he said is also true. Singapore will continue to tolerate Myanmar and will never consider calling for sanctions. Economic ties between Singapore and Myanmar will continue, and very unfortunately, that brat will be getting his new Ferrari in no time.
Like the Singapore government, I don't see sanctions as a viable or effective option in democratising Myanmar. More importantly, I share the same view with our government that sanctions against Myanmar will cause ourselves more economic harm than the so called victim country.
Point one, sanctions will not be effective because Singapore is only a tiny red dot. Larger sums are traded between Singapore and other countries, but also larger sums are traded between Myanmar and other powers. This being said, even if we did impose sanctions on Myanmar, it would not do much economic harm to them to force the military junta to give up power. For as long as Myanmar still has another trading partner, things will be fine for Myanmar. That being said, Myanmar does has another huge ass trading partner in China, which are probably just as undemocratic as itself. Unless China also decides to impose sanctions, I don't see a point in Singapore imposing economic sanctions and hurting our own economy.
This goes on to my next point. I don't understand why a lot of people don't seem to be able to see the fact that Singapore is totally reliant on Myanmar that we cannot and must not impose any sanctions on them. Remember, if one we impose sanctions on Myanmar, Myanmar will do the same to us. Don't say we don't need anything from Myanmar, because we NEED. Had it not for the fact that Singapore need this commodity from Myanmar, I believe, Singapore might have already taken a stronger stance against Myanmar.
There is one commodity that Singapore imports only from Myanmar, giving Myanmar a monopoly over that commodity, and that is one very important raw material essential to the very survival of Singapore as a nation-state. Sand. Since Indonesia ceased trading sand with us, Singapore's economy suffered a dip, and Singapore had to seek other alternatives. It took more than a short period of time for Singapore to be able to find an alternative in Myanmar, do you think we'd give all this up and see our economy wither off? No way. Even now, Singapore is paying six times the amount for sand from Myanmar than previously from Indonesia, imagine how much sand would cost if sanctions were to be placed on them. Imagine how Singapore's development will come to a total standstill if that were to happen. Sentosa, integrated resorts, lan reclamations, the building industry. Singapore will be screwed.
Unless Singapore is able to locate a viable and economical alternative to Myanmar in the sand trade, there's no way Singapore can take up a hard stance against Myanmar. Dubai wanted to partake in this sand trade with us some time after the Indo-sand fiasco, but it's just not economically viable to import sand from that far away, hence talks has been scrapped. And that means, we need to be nice to Myanmar.
Also, we can't even say out loud this reliance on Myanmar because that will only make Myanmar even more cocky and that would also be detrimental to the democratic activism in Myanmar itself.
What Singapore can do now is only to put their words across as harshly as possible, and show solidarity to the Burmese people while not angering the military junta. That might be quite contradictory, but that is exactly what the government is doing now. Letting the people speak up against the junta, while the government retains it's close ties with the junta. Yes, I have utmost support for the democratic movement in Myanmar, and I'd do my best to be able to help the Burmese people. But that being said, I also understand the position of the government, and understand the precarious position of Singapore in this much larger context. No government bashings for me, and definitely no calls for any kind of economic sanctions by me.
(And no, this is not a pro-government piece. Anyone who knows me would know that I have less than kind words to say about our government. But let's just say, I know that the government is smarter than most of the ignorant folks out that, and that's why they are the government and you are not.)