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TOC Report: MM Lee says Dialogue with Burmese Generals like “talking to dead people”

Choo Zheng Xi

In more revelations about Singapore’s opinion of our neighbors, the Burmese junta is described as “dense” and “stupid” and has “mismanaged” the country’s vast natural resources. Dealing with the regime is like “talking to dead people”.

ASEAN should not have admitted Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam because they do not share the values of the founder members and have “muddied” the organization’s values as a result.

The latest diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks records a meeting between Mr Lee and Thomas Christensen in 2007. Mr Christensen was then U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Despite Mr Lee’s bleak assessment of the Burmese junta, he quotes a Burmese ambassador as saying that Burma could survive any sanctions due to its vast natural resources. The only hope for regime change would be if younger and less “obtuse” elements in the military took over and shared power with democratic activists.

In Mr Lee’s opinion, this would be unlikely to involve Aung San Suu Kyi as she was anathema to the junta.

Singapore has been a consistent proponent of dialogue with the junta. To date, Singapore has invested more than $2 billion in Burma.

Mr Lee is quoted as stating that Singapore would not be best placed to appoint an ASEAN envoy to Burma as Singapore is “seen as too close to the US”. He suggested Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or Vietnam instead.

The cable also touches on Mr Lee’s read of cross-straits relations between China and Taiwan. He describes former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian as having nothing left to lose in pushing for Taiwanese independence due to his having “discredited himself with his corruption scandals”.

Recently leaked cables recording comments made by Mr Lee to US diplomats about Malaysia have caused sufficient consternation that the Malaysian Foreign Minister handed over a protest note to the Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister George Yeo had earlier said the government wouldn't comment on documents released by WikiLeaks.