Seminar for Singapore to invest in Burma – Myanmar

Constructive Engagement?

The policy of ‘constructive engagement’ is a smoke screen for taking money from a morally repugnant regime. It is against the wishes of the democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and sends the wrong signal…

Myanmar’s military rulers [who] are still holding more than 1,100 political prisoners despite last July’s release of 249 such detainees, a U.N. human rights investigator reported on Wednesday.

Monks, lawyers, teachers, journalists, farmers, politicians, student leaders, writers and poets are among those the reclusive Southeast Asian nation is detaining on political grounds, special rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil said in a report to the 191-nation U.N. General Assembly.
Myanmar has 1,100 political prisoners -UN expert

“If we don’t take their money someone else will.”

Prominent pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has had various restrictions placed on her activities since the late 1980s. In 1990 her party won a landslide victory in Burma’s first multi-party elections for 30 years, but has never been allowed to govern.

Military-run enterprises control key industries, and corruption and severe mismanagement are the hallmarks of a black-market-riven economy.

The armed forces – and former rebels co-opted by the government – have been accused of large-scale trafficking in heroin, of which Burma is a major exporter. Prostitution and Aids are major problems.

The above is quoted from the BBC.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the assassinated independence leader Aung San, spent 6 years under house arrest [actually she is again under house arrest]. In 1990, her party, the National League for Democracy, won 82 percent of the parliamentary seats. The generals, shocked by an election result they never expected, threw 200 of the newly-elected MPs into prison. Suu Kyi’s party has never been allowed to take elected office.

She warns that, far from liberalizing life in Burma, foreign investment and tourism can further entrench the military regime.

Seminar to invest in Burma

Mizzima News (
September 28, 2005

A seminar aim to promote investment in Burma held today in Singapore.

The speaker Mr. Serge Pun, Chairman of the SPA Group, operating with banking, real estate, manufacturing to services and running with over 3500 employees in Burma has scheduled to speech on the seminar entitled “ Business & Investment Opportunities Seminar- Myanmar” at Bungis junction Office Tower.

The changing of Burma’s economy and business environment situations, the Singaporean businessmen will have new chances and hope for the business field in the oil and gas, trading and services sectors, stated in the invitation letter.

Singapore is one of the top foreign investor in Burma. In 2004, Burma and Singapore reached with bilateral trade amounting to S$1.2 billion.

While US and the West impose sanction on Burma, foreign investment rise up more than 34 percent in 2004, said a report from Ministry of National Planning and Development in its annual report.

But, some critics say facts and figures released by the authority are unreliable.

Related Articles:

Singapore’s Blood Money
Horrific account of Burma’s suppression


SEAPA urges Singapore to stop probe of filmmaker, repeal Films Act

SEAPA urges Singapore to stop probe of filmmaker, repeal Films Act
26 September 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance is seriously concerned over deepening police investigations into the work and causes of Singaporean filmmaker Martyn See, and urges free expression advocates worldwide to condemn this latest harassment of a citizen for the “crime” of having spoken his mind. At the same time, SEAPA said the case of Martyn See highlights the harshness of Singaporean state practices and laws in stifling free expression.

Hey teacher leave them kids alone

The Pink Floyd song comes to mind… Another brick in the wall (part 2)

Singapore schools punish cheeky student bloggers
Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:16 AM BST

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore schools have begun a clampdown on students who insult teachers in online journals by punishing them with suspensions, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

In August, five junior college students who posted derogatory remarks about their teachers and vice-principal on their blogs, or online journals, were suspended for three days, the Straits Times reported.

Seven secondary schools and two junior colleges have also got tough on penalised students for making offensive remarks about teachers on blogs: one secondary school student who called a teacher a “prude” and a “frustrated old spinster” on her blog was ordered to remove the remarks.

Blogging, writing in online journals, has become huge popular among the young in tech-savvy Singapore, where over 65 percent of the city-state’s 4.2 million people are wired to the Internet.

But with libellous blogs emerging as a hot legal issue, one has to be careful with what is written.

In May, a Singapore student shut down his blog after a government agency threatened to sue for what it said were untrue and serious accusations.

In September, three ethnic Chinese bloggers were charged in court under Singapore’s sedition laws for making racial slurs against the Malay community on their weblogs.

Lawyers say students could be sued for defamation, even if a teacher was not named.

“As long as someone is able to identify the teacher, and it is an untrue statement that affects his reputation or livelihood, then the student is liable,” lawyer Doris Chia of Harry Elias and Partners was quoted as saying in the Straits Times.

An injunction can be taken to get the student to remove the blog and issue an apology, she said.

Amnesty International Appeal on behalf of Martyn See

The following is an appeal on behalf of Singaporean film maker Martyn See, who is now under police investigation following the making of his short documentary on opposition leader Dr Chee Soon Juan. The film in question can be downloaded via this link. Singapore Rebel.
The appeal is also on the website of AI’s Asia-Pacific Regional Office:

26 September, 2005

SINGAPORE: Stifling freedom of expression: Film maker Martyn See threatened with prosecution

Singaporean film maker Martyn See is under police investigation for making a short documentary film about an opposition politician in the city state. He has been threatened with prosecution under the Films Act, after a making of a 26-minute documentary on Dr Chee Soon Juan, the leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and could face up to two years in jail or a fine of up to S$100,000 (Canadian dollar approximately equivalent).

In March 2005 government movie censors ordered the withdrawal of his documentary, entitled Singapore Rebel, from the country’s annual international film festival on the grounds that that it breached the Films Act. Subsequently, as police conducted a criminal investigation, Martyn See was called for questioning and compelled to surrender his video camera, existing tapes of the documentary and other related material.

The Films Act, just one of a wide range of restrictive laws that curtail freedom of expression in Singapore, prohibits “party political films”. The Act broadly defines such films as those containing “…either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter”.

The subject of the film, Dr Chee Soon Juan, is prominent among the limited number of Singaporeans who remain vocal and active in opposition politics despite the serious obstacles and personal pressures that such a role can entail.

Chee Soon Juan has been imprisoned for holding peaceful public meetings, and following civil defamation suits lodged by leaders of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) now faces possible bankruptcy. As a bankrupt he would be barred from standing in parliamentary elections.

Martyn See denies making the film in support of any particular political belief or party, commenting that he sought to “find out Chee Soon Juan’s motivation, as to why he does what he does.” Although banned in Singapore, the film has been screened at human rights festivals in the United States and New Zealand and may soon be shown in Canada.


Freedom of expression, association and assembly is strictly controlled in Singapore, a city-state of just over four million people. A broad array of restrictive legislation, including the Films Act, the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, the Societies Act, the Undesirable Publications Act and the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act, imposes tight curbs on free speech and civil society activities.

In respect to curbs on allegedly “political” or other “unacceptable” films, a 15-minute documentary made by three college lecturers about veteran former opposition leader J B Jeyaretnam was banned in 2001 after it was found to have violated the Films Act. In 2003, a film by Roystan Tan, 15, telling the story of delinquent teenage gangsters, was ordered cut by government censors after police deemed it a threat to national security, though it was reportedly well received at the Vienna Film Festival.

In a recent protest action against the Films Act and other censorship in Singapore, internet activist Yap Keng Ho lodged a police complaint in August in relation to the production and screening by a state-owned television company of allegedly “political” films profiling PAP leaders. Yap Keng Ho stated he wanted to expose a pro-ruling party bias in the Act and its application. Police are investigating the complaint.

Amid hopes of a possible relaxation of political and social controls, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (son of former longstanding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew) in his 2004 inaugural speech called for greater participation by Singaporeans in a more “open” and “inclusive” society.

However, continuing tight restrictions, including the use of the Films Act, continue to inhibit political life. In particular, financially ruinous civil defamation suits lodged by PAP leaders against prominent opposition figures deter and intimidate government critics. Following a series of such defamation suits, former opposition leader J B Jeyaretnam was declared bankrupt in 2001, expelled from parliament and barred from contesting elections.

Amnesty International considers these defamation suits were politically motivated and have had a wider ‘chilling’ effect on the right to freedom of expression in Singapore. The US State Department Human Rights Report has also criticised Singapore for using defamation suits to intimidate opposition politicians, and the press organisation Reporteurs Sans Frontières ranks Singapore 147th out of 167 countries on press freedom.


1. Encourage the screening of Martyn See’s film, Singapore Rebel.

2. Write a courteous letter:

– Express concern about harassment of Martyn See, the threat of his prosecution under the Films Act, and restrictions on freedom of expression, including artistic freedom;

– Call for an end to the misuse of restrictive laws, including the Films Act, which can serve to punish perceived government opponents and to deter Singaporeans from expressing dissenting political opinions and participating in public life;

– State that freedom of expression is a fundamental right protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Dr LEE Boon Yang Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts

140 Hill Street, #02-02 MICA Building

Singapore 179369

E-mail: or

Fax: +65 6837 9837

His Excellency Vanu Gopala Menon Salutation: Your Excellency

Permanent Representative of the Republic of Singapore to the UN and High Commission to Canada

231 E. 51st Street

New York, NY 10022


Fax: +1 212 826 2964

Do Housemaids Need a Day Off?

This is an easy question to answer. YES. They deserve it the same as every other worker in Singapore. Worrying about what an adult does on his or her day off has nothing to do with the employer. Maids do not require special treatment nor protection from preditors outside the home as most abuse takes place within the home.

Do Housemaids Need a Day Off?
Stanislaus Jude Chan

SINGAPORE, Sep 24 (IPS) – Gruesome as it was, the discovery of the severed head and limbs of a Filipino housemaid, abandoned in a travel bag on fashionable Orchard Road, has rekindled an old debate on whether foreign domestic workers in this affluent city-state should get a weekly day off or not.

The immediate concern in businesslike Singapore, following the Sep. 9 discovery, was that the rather overworked ‘Maid in Singapore’ headlines were beginning to overshadow the ‘Uniquely Singapore’ campaign slogan, carefully crafted for the tourism department.

There were few tears shed for Jane Parangan La Puebla and none for Guen Garlejo Aguilar, arrested for the murder of her compatriot and ‘best friend’. They were just more trouble than the usual run of ‘havoc maids’.

But the scene was different in the Philippines where demonstrations were mounted in front of the Singapore embassy demanding that Aguilar gets a fair trial and justice. Parallels were drawn with the controversial hanging of Flor Contemplacion for the murder of fellow domestic worker Delia Maga, a decade ago.

Contemplacion’s execution strained relations between Singapore and the Philippines and caused many Filipinos to vent their frustration at governments in both countries that were, seemingly, not doing enough to prevent the abuse and stress that are the lot of Filipino overseas workers.

This time, Manila appealed for calm, urging local media to cease sensational reporting on the La Puebla murder. ”I appeal for sobriety from everyone and not to come to rash conclusions on the basis of media reports or stories being circulated,” Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Belen Anota was quoted by newspapers as saying.

Officials fear the sensational reports could stir up public sentiment and set off an unwarranted reaction against Singapore–though there was relief that this was a case of one Filipino maid allegedly killing another, rather than extreme violence between Singaporean employers and foreign domestic help.

Singapore courts frequently hear cases of housemaid abuse–or those concerning retaliatory murder, the usual plea of defence lawyers on behalf of their clients being that they were driven to homicide after suffering extreme abuse.

Last month, Singapore’s image as a destination for foreign job-seekers took yet another beating when homemaker, Sazarina Madzin was arrested for the abuse of her Indonesian maid, Wiwik Setyowati, last year.

The 28-year-old Madzin was charged on 80 counts of abuse, including bludgeoning her hapless victim, Setyowati, with an assortment of household items, including shoes, a tomato sauce bottle and a plastic chopping board.

Apart from fines, Madzin now faces seven years in prison for threatening to kill her employee.

On the other hand, two Indonesian maids who robbed and killed their employer Esther Ang were found guilty of manslaughter last month but escaped the death sentence.

The judge determined that Juminem, 20, ”was suffering from a psychiatric disorder of a depressive nature” and awarded her a life sentence, while he sent 17-year-old Siti Aminah to ten years in prison after noting that she was only 15 at the time of the crime and that she was ”intellectually and psychologically immature”.

The three cases in the space of a month have dented Singapore’s reputation as a safe and lawful city, besides leading to concern over the treatment of migrant workers here.

There are currently some 150,000 foreign maids working in Singapore. Most of them are from the Philippines and Indonesia, with the rest from Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand.

But more than 27 years after foreign domestic helpers first started working in Singapore, debate on issues like whether maids should get a day off and also how much they should be paid, continues.

Filipino maids, who can converse in English, usually receive around 215 US dollars a month while Sri Lankans rate less at 150 dollars. Indonesians get paid around 120 dollars, slightly more than the 117-dollar levy that employers must pay the government per worker.

The wages seem exploitative in a country with one of the most affluent societies in Asia and having a per capita monthly income exceeding 2,000 dollars. And for round-the-clock work.

”Even machines need rest,” says Filipino domestic worker Ellen Elancanal, who has been here for eight years. ”We work so many hours. We must have a day a week, whichever way we want to spend it”. She gets to spend her Sundays with a church choir, or helping fellow workers in trouble.

”Not giving people time off can make people disgruntled and stressed,” said Helen Tan, spokeswoman for the Association of Employment Agencies, Singapore.

But many employers are wary of ‘social problems’ and choose to keep their maids at home.

Employers in Singapore risk forfeiting a 3,000 dollar-security bond if the maid goes missing–or if they fail to repatriate her at the end of the contract or in the event of pregnancy.

”They (domestic helpers) know that if they do that (get pregnant), they stand to lose everything. It’s not in their interest to jeopardise the money they send home to their families,” said Braema Mathi, president of Transient Workers Count Too, an agency defending the human rights of workers here.

”If employers are worried about pregnancy, then workers should have sex education. We can’t control human behaviour to that extent and say that we are protecting her by not giving her a day off”.

On the ground though, many employers are sceptical about days off. ”They have boyfriends and all that!” says Mary Lee, 58, a Singaporean homemaker who has employed several domestic workers over the last two decades.

”Some even go to Geylang (Singapore’s red-light district) and earn extra cash, you know? We can’t control the maids, so it’s best that when we employ the maid, we tell the agent we don’t want to give days off,” Lee said.

Fear of ‘social problems’ causes employers to deny maids a day off and the stress of working without a break results in pent-up frustrations that create rather than solve a delicate problems which can be tackled on with responsibility and understanding.

”The bold maids are often those who have worked here for some time. Their employers trust them and some abuse their privileges,” said Alice Cheah, owner of the Singapore agency, ‘Caregivers Centre’, stressing that ‘havoc maids’ are in the minority.

”Maids should be given days off. It’d be unhealthy psychologically if the maids are cooped up in the house every day. If the maids treasure their jobs, they will behave well,” Cheah said.

Power To The Teachers

A posting of an article for my own records. I worked in a number of ‘private schools’, or ‘business schools’ in Singapore and know this story from the inside out. Lets put it diplomatically and state that there is a certain tension or conflict of interest within such organisations, which is best summed up with an image of a “business-school” dichotomy. I am attracted to this article because it refers to one of the few groups of people within said organisations that appear to be motivated towards education. The original article is available here.

Singapore: “A magnet for Asian education” but also of fraud
The education boom in this city state cloaks inefficiency and deception

Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In Singapore, the sharp rise in the number of private schools in recent years has prompted the government to strive to make the country “a magnet for education for all Asia”. The schools do offer a considerable range of possibilities from teaching of English to children’s pre-schooling to electrical engineering and tourism. Education makes up 1.9% of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product.

Many students come from abroad, especially from China. They pay between 5,000 and 20,000 Singapore dollars (between 2,500 and 10,000 US dollars) to be able to read for a diploma or a degree.

However, there are businessmen at work in the sector who do not guarantee quality standards. The authorities have heard many complaints from students who protested against the poor effectiveness of courses or the inefficiency of the school campus. There have even been problems regarding the reimbursement of school taxes. The government, to put a stop to these goings-on, decided last year to introduce a plan to protect students.

Schools are now obliged to deposit enrolment taxes of students in a specific current account which allows the withdrawal of money only after the student would have completed his course. Otherwise, the school may draw up an insurance policy in the student’s name. Only 140 out of 209 schools were able to implement this plan.

The plan, which has a long-term view of protecting students as well as the reputation of the education system is having short-term negative repercussions.

Recently, the “Ait academy” and the “Unicampus” [SAME PLACE]had to shut down. Hundreds of students – including a Chinese student who has enrolled and paid 5,565 Singapore dollars to the school the day before it announced its closure – found themselves without a place to go to school.

Students who had enrolled in the Ait last year were covered by the protection plan and they were able to transfer to other schools without forking out any more money.

Other schools face financial problems. Last year, the formation school “Informatics” which offered to take 250 Ait students, was involved in a money scandal.

Many teachers believe the Ait school is only the tip of the iceberg and that many schools could close if they did not put their accounts in order quickly.

Absolutely — within the limits of the law

With the World Bank and IMF intending to hold meetings in Singapore the concern is that the protestors who normally accompany such meetings will not be allowed to attend. Mr Lim below states that the demonstrators will not be kept out, so long as they remain…

“Absolutely — within the limits of the law,” he told reporters when asked if Singapore would tolerate public protests at the meetings next September.

After the recent quiet peaceful protest of less than the maximum 5 individuals at the CPF headquarters was surrounded by 40 police officers, some in riot gear, Mr Lim appears to be speaking without foundation.

Will only 4 protestors be allowed to demonstrate? Will they have to remain silent? Will they have to be non-Singaporeans? The concern is that foreigners will be allowed to protest, while Singaporeans will be denied the same right.

Mr Raymond Lim, Second Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs, promised that the demonstrators who traditionally dog the meetings of the international financial organisations would not be kept out. “Absolutely — within the limits of the law,” he told reporters when asked if Singapore would tolerate public protests at the meetings next September.

The idea that any country will allow demonstrations from non-citizens and yet break-up peaceful protests by their own citizens could send a very strong message to the people of Singapore. Singapore will host the World Bank nad IMF meetings next September and the eyes of the world will be watching as it stumbles to maintain its image of being an open and tolerant society. The constraints on the right to protest maintained and enforced by the government will need to be re-evaluated.

Sources said it is hoped that prominent Asian heads of government, including leaders from China, India and Japan, will join their finance ministers at the meetings in Singapore to add weight to the regional sales pitch. — AFP WASHINGTON — Neat, tidy and fabulously wealthy Singapore will loosen up for law-abiding protesters when it hosts next year’s annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF, a minister said yesterday.

Full Article is available here