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Cablegate: Burma: Asean's Gambari Cancellation Sparks Small

VZCZCXRO2364
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGP #2093/01 3251216
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211216Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4475
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2682
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1892
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4157
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5776
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0862
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0143
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SINGAPORE 002093

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ASEAN BU SN
SUBJECT: BURMA: ASEAN'S GAMBARI CANCELLATION SPARKS SMALL
PROTESTS

REF: A. SINGAPORE 1822
B. SINGAPORE 1889
C. SINGAPORE 2075
D. SINGAPORE 2085
E. SINGAPORE 2086

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: ASEAN's ambivalent handling of the Burma
issue during its ongoing cycle of ASEAN-related summits
appears to have been met with mixed feelings among Burmese
nationals and their sympathizers living in Singapore. The
announcement that ASEAN had canceled UN Special Advisor
Ibrahim Gambari's planned briefing of the East Asia Summit
provoked small groups of demonstrators to go a bit beyond
their previously careful observance of Singapore's tight
restrictions on public demonstrations. Press reporting
indicated Burma activists were upset about the cancellation
and unhappy with ASEAN's apparent failure to put any teeth
into its demands for political reform. On
the other hand, some protesters thought it was important that
ASEAN got Burma to sign onto the human rights and good
governance commitments contained in its landmark Charter.
Singapore's government-controlled press continued to cast the
Burmese community and activists in a favorable light. END
SUMMARY

2. (U) A small number of Burmese nationals and activists
living in Singapore took to the streets in protest again
near the venue for the ongoing ASEAN-related summit meetings
on November 20. Carrying candles and wearing red T-shirts
bearing the slogan, "We pursue peace, justice and democracy
for Burma," a group of nine foreign students, including
Burmese, tried to approach the Shangri-la hotel where ASEAN
leaders are meeting. Police stopped the students before they
reached the hotel. Police took the particulars of the
protesters, apparently to signal that protests - even those
which are sympathetically viewed - would not be allowed to go
too far.. Media reported that another group of 40 Burmese
nationals gathered down the street from the Summit venue and
held up banners that said, "Signing Charter with Generals
Makes ASEAN a Laughing Stock" and "ASEAN has Power to Make a
Difference." After several minutes police officers
approached the group, which dispersed quietly.

3. (U) In separate incidents, news media reported that two
different Burmese-led organizations in Singapore circulated
petitions to protest ASEAN's lack of concrete action on
Burma. "SG Human Rights", an activist group which formed
last month, tried to deliver a 40-signature petition to ASEAN
leaders, calling on them to use all means at their disposal
to bring about democratic change in Burma. However, police
officers would not allow them to approach the Summit venue
and the activists agreed to turned the petition over to a
member of the ASEAN Summit Secretariat. The Overseas Burmese
Patriots, a group of 20 students, professionals, and workers
resident in Singapore delivered a petition signed by 3,626
people to MP Irene Ng, who will forward it to the UN through
the Singapore Foreign Ministry. Three members claiming to
represent the Overseas Burmese Patriots also approached the
embassy on November 20 to present us with the same petition,
which calls on the UNSC to intervene in Burma in the interest
of peace and reconciliation. (Post will forward the petition
to EAP/MLS via pouch.)

4. (SBU) While the protests were small, they are significant
in Singapore where public gatherings of 5 or more persons
require a permit. Permit requests are rarely granted, and
authorities normally take a hard-line against groups that do
not have one (ref A and B). (In contrast to the leniency
authorities continued to show Burmese protesters, police
arrested two members of the opposition Singapore Democratic
Party, Chee Siok Chin and John Tan, as they approached the
Shangri-la Hotel on November 20.) These restrictions are well
known, and recent Burma protesters have generally taken care
to observe them. The November 20 protests appeared to go
further in crossing government red-lines than earlier ones.
The protesters appeared to be reacting in anger to ASEAN
summit events, in particular the cancellation of Gambari,s
briefing. However, other protestors noted that the Summit
had achieved some good: "At least the generals have signed
the Charter, which obliges them to protect human rights."


SINGAPORE 00002093 002 OF 002


5. (SBU) Interestingly, Singapore's government controlled
media continued to cast the Burmese protesters in a favorable
light, even as they skirted the law and criticized ASEAN and
the Singapore government. The Straits Times newspaper quoted
by name a Burmese business student saying that he and his
compatriots "feel that ASEAN, including the Singapore
government, is ignoring the desire and wishes of the Burmese
people for freedom and democracy." At the same time,
reporting included subtle warnings that police would be
vigilant in preventing societal discord.

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

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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