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Cablegate: Singapore Democratic Party Chief Chee Arrested For

VZCZCXRO6573
RR RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHGP #1889 2840907
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 110907Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4223
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SINGAPORE 001889

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV BM SN
SUBJECT: SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHIEF CHEE ARRESTED FOR
PROTESTING EVENTS IN BURMA

REF: A. SINGAPORE 1822
B. 06 SINGAPORE 3744

1. (SBU) While the Government of Singapore (GOS) usually
does not allow unauthorized public demonstrations, they have
shown unusual flexibility toward public displays of
solidarity with the Burmese people since the regime's violent
crackdown (reftel A). That tolerance evidently does not
extend to Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Dr. Chee
Soon Juan, however. Chee and four other SDP supporters were
arrested October 8 after attempting to deliver a petition to
the Presidential Palace demanding that Prime Minister Lee
Hsien Loong clarify Singapore's relationship with Burma's
military junta. Chee tops the GOS' list of "troublemakers"
who push political discourse beyond acceptable limits (reftel
B). As a result, he has faced substantial financial
penalties and periodic jail stints when he has been unwilling
or unable to pay.

2. (SBU) Interestingly in this instance, the authorities have
gone to great lengths to justify Chee's arrest and to
distinguish him from other, presumably better motivated,
Burma protesters. The police felt it necessary to issue a
long-winded statement explaining the circumstances around his
arrest and alleging that Chee considers "himself above the
law." The statement emphasized that "in contrast to Chee's
acts of willful civil disobedience, Singaporeans and Myanmar
nationals in Singapore have organized themselves to express
their sentiments and concern for the Myanmar situation in a
lawful manner. These included an indoor 'peace vigil' at the
Excelsior Hotel and signature collections and vigils at local
universities."

3. (SBU) The statement did not mention that the police have
tolerated small, though technically illegal, demonstrations
on a quiet side-street outside the Burmese Embassy. Rather
it emphasized that Chee had violated security zones when he
attempted to deliver the petition to the presidential palace
and even after he and his SDP colleagues moved to a park
across Singapore,s main shopping thoroughfare. Less
surprising than the treatment of Chee is the authorities'
forbearance of other Burma-related actions, which suggests
genuine sympathy for the Burmese, both on the part of the
public and the GOS.

Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm
SHIELDS

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