While Singapore is alarmed over the escalating violence in Myanmar, it will not interfere in its domestic affairs as the fate of the country lies in the hand of its people, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
Dr Balakrishnan said this during his visit to Fujian on Wednesday (31 Mar) for a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
In an interview with the media following his meeting with Mr Wang, Dr Balakrishnan called for the military authorities in Myanmar to “act with restraint (to) de-escalate the violence”.
The same sentiment is shared by his Chinese counterpart, as both countries agree on the importance of respecting the “principle of non-interference in domestic matters” in Myanmar.
“Ultimately, the fate and the future of Myanmar lies in the hands of its own people. We can try to help – ASEAN, the UN certainly tried to help – in a constructive, non-interfering way, but in a way that allows dialogue to occur,” Dr Balakrishnan said.
He also shared that both China and Singapore hope that the tensions in Myanmar will de-escalate and for political dialogue to take place soon.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power in a coup in February that triggered a nationwide uprising as protesters call for a return to democracy.
So far, more than 500 people have been killed in the anti-coup protests as security forces have deployed tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds against protesters.
On 4 Feb, the Singapore government said that it is “deeply concerned” about the latest developments in Myanmar.
“Myanmar and Singapore share close bilateral economic ties, and we have ongoing investment projects and business interests in Myanmar. We will monitor the situation closely,” said a government spokesperson.
Singapore was listed as the largest foreign investor in Myanmar by the World Bank last year, accounting for 34 per cent of overall approved investment. Hong Kong came second with 26 per cent.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) commitments into Myanmar were worth US$5.5 billion in the 2020 fiscal year, which ended in September, as reported by BBC.
The Global New Light of Myanmar reported last October that about 20 Singapore-listed enterprises brought in US$1.85 billion into Myanmar in the past financial year 2019-2020, making it the top source of foreign investment in the country.
Myanmar protestors have called for the boycott of some Singaporean F&B brands, such as Tiger Beer and Ya Kun Kaya Toast, the reason being that “Singapore is not supporting the voices of Myanmar people”.
Protesters have also urged people to boycott businesses that are linked to the military.
Mixed reactions from netizens
Over on social media, online users have expressed mixed reactions toward Singapore’s non-interference stance.
Some of them said that they are “disappointed” with what Dr Balakrishnan said, adding that the violence in Myanmar is damaging the citizens of Myanmar.
One user particular noted that he is “upset” that the Singapore government agreed with “China on the non-interference of Myanmar violence”.
“If you see a parent trying to kill their kid by hanging them off the cliff of a building, would you stop by and save the kid or would you not interfere at all? Let alone parents beating their children. We would all stop by to help because that’s who we are and what’s Singapore culture all about,” the user noted.
However, others opined that it is best for Singapore to not interfere in Myanmar’s domestic affairs as “Myanmar (is) not our problem”.
One user said abstaining from interference serves to “safeguard Singapore so that foreign powers can’t influence how Singapore leaders run our country”.
Another warned about a possible “domino effect” that might result from military intervention, which would have disastrous consequences for Singapore should the Myanmar junta decide to retaliate.