SINGAPORE – Singapore has banned the sale of arms to Myanmar for a long time and has not sold military weapons there, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.
He reiterated what former Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo had said in 2007 that there had not been any defence sales to Myanmar for some years. Today, 16 years later, this position still stands.
Dr Balakrishnan noted that many assertions made by the report of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar pertained to economic activities which predate the military coup.
“It is also worth emphasising that before the military coup, it was a legitimate government in Myanmar who we fully recognised and who we had constructive, comprehensive relations with.”
Dr Balakrishnan was replying to Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Dennis Tan’s question in today’s (14 Feb) parliament sitting.
Mr Tan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding allegations in the report of the Special Advisory Council alleged that Singapore functions as a “strategic transit point for potentially significant volumes of items”, including raw materials that contribute towards military production by the Myanmar military.
Report named Singapore functions as a “strategic transit point for potentially significant volumes of items”
On 16 January, the Special Advisory Council alerted that despite Western-led sanctions intended to isolate Myanmar, Myanmar’s military is producing a vast range of weapons to use against its own people thanks to supplies from companies in at least 13 countries.
The report named Singaporean companies operating as go-betweens for Myanmar’s military buyers and external suppliers, and the raw material for weapons production, including copper and iron, believed to come from China and Singapore.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in response to the report, stated on 18 January that Singapore does not permit the transfer of arms or items with potential military applications to Myanmar.
The ministry noted that many claims about Singapore pertain to economic activities that predate the February 2021 military coup.
Two of the four companies operating out of Singapore listed in the report have been struck off from ACRA’s record. The other two, ST Kinetics and DPW are still operating as live companies.
Singapore’s stance on defence sales to Myanmar has not changed
Regarding the military sales, Dr Balakrishnan quoted George Yeo when he answered a question in 2007 on whether Singapore has supplied arms to Myanmar:
“As far as defence sales are concerned, it is established policy of the Government not to divulge details publicly. Myanmar is not subject to any UN (United Nations) arms embargo. If there is any UN sanction against Myanmar, Singapore will of course abide by it. Nevertheless, I can say that over the years defence sales to Myanmar have not been substantial, and have always been carefully limited to items that are not suitable for countering civilian unrest. There have not been any defence sales to Myanmar in recent years and, going forward, we will continue to behave in a responsible manner.”
Dr Balakrishnan reiterated that Singapore’s stance on defence sales to Myanmar has not changed since George Yeo’s 2007 statement.
He emphasized that Singapore adheres strictly to its international commitments on arms sales and transfers and complies with UN sanctions and embargoes against all countries. Singapore voted in favor of the UN General Assembly resolution to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.
“Whilst UN General Assembly resolutions are not strictly legally binding, nevertheless, the Government of Singapore has decided to prohibit the transfer of arms to Myanmar. We also decided not to authorise the transfer of dual-use items which have been assessed to have potential military application to Myanmar.”
Dr Balakrishnan reassures import and export submission are thoroughly scrutinized
MP Dennis Tan further asked whether the Government will carry out a check on all Singapore companies, including companies that may be implicated by the report, to ensure compliance with the prohibitions against the transfer of items having potential military applications in Myanmar against civilians.
Dr Balakrishnan replied: “What I can say, looking at Mr George Yeo’s response is that we’ve maintained that same position. Therefore, there have been no defence sales for a very long time, we’re talking more than a decade, decade-and-a-half.”
He noted that although the UN General Assembly resolution is not legally binding, Singapore has taken a decision to effect a ban on the sale and transfer of arms.
“You must remember that also includes the transhipment of arms. Now, this is effected legally through our Strategic Goods (Control) Act, and that means we go through every submission of an import or export.”
Dr. Balakrishnan reassured that every import and export submission is thoroughly scrutinized, and if there are clear indications of military items or dual-use items that could pose a risk to unarmed civilians, red flags will be raised.
Myanmar’s military junta seized power in February 2021, resulting in violence between soldiers and anti-coup rebels.
Over 2,000 individuals have died due to crackdowns on dissent, according to local monitoring groups.