Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishan’s Written Replies to Parliamentary Questions, 11 May 2021

QUESTIONS

 

Ms Sylvia Lim: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) what is the Ministry’s latest assessment of the political situation in Myanmar; and (b) how best can ASEAN and Singapore contribute towards the well-being of the people of Myanmar.

 

Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs following the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April 2021 (a) what further actions will now be taken by ASEAN to ensure that the Myanmar military will work towards a peaceful and democratic resolution of the political crisis; and (b) what does Singapore hope for ASEAN to achieve and what is the expected time frame.

 

REPLY

 

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: I seek your permission to respond to questions by Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Dennis Tan on how ASEAN and Singapore can address the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, in light of the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting (ALM), which took place on 24 April 2021.

 

2        The situation in Myanmar remains fraught with ongoing fatalities, increased clashes between the Tatmadaw and the Ethnic Armed Organisations, and the severe COVID-19 pandemic. According to the UN, more than 700 people have been killed since 1 February. President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees remain under detention. Protests against the military are continuing. This points to an increasingly intractable situation that threatens to further disrupt regional stability.

 

3        Our immediate priority remains the de-escalation of the situation in Myanmar, particularly the cessation of violence that has caused the tragic loss of civilian lives. The ALM in Jakarta on 24 April 2021 was a positive initial step. The resulting Five-Point Consensus calls for: First, the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar, and for all parties to exercise utmost restraint. Second, the commencement of constructive dialogue among all parties concerned, to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people. Third, a special envoy of the ASEAN Chair, assisted by the Secretary-General of ASEAN, to facilitate mediation of the dialogue process. Fourth, ASEAN to provide humanitarian assistance through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre). Fifth, the special envoy and delegation to visit Myanmar and meet with all parties concerned. The Chairman’s Statement on the ALM also called for the release of all political prisoners.

 

4        ASEAN’s immediate task is to implement the Five-Point Consensus. This will not be an easy process. The cooperation of the Tatmadaw will be needed. There are many details to be worked out, including nominating an envoy or a team of ASEAN envoys, their terms of reference, as well as working out how and when to disburse humanitarian assistance. ASEAN will also have to continue to speak collectively to urge the Myanmar military authorities to uphold the consensus – particularly to exercise maximum restraint and begin meaningful dialogue with all parties concerned. ASEAN must also continue to call for the release of all political detainees, notably President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

5        While the ALM represented an initial step, the path back to normalcy in Myanmar will be a long and difficult one. As I have said before, the long-term and sustainable resolution of the current crisis ultimately lies with the Myanmar people. The key stakeholders in Myanmar must negotiate, find a compromise and formulate a durable political solution. Ultimately, it is their political will to do what is right for the people of Myanmar that would determine how quickly a solution can be found. ASEAN can only help to facilitate this dialogue and support the process.

 

6        At the same time, Singapore and ASEAN must continue to work with and complement the efforts by the UN and other international bodies, including the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Myanmar Ms Christine Schraner Burgener. Other countries like China, the US, India, Japan, and other Dialogue Partners of ASEAN also have important roles to play given their considerable influence over the various actors in this crisis.

 

7        Singapore will continue to do what we can to support ASEAN’s efforts in facilitating a return to normalcy, peace and stability in Myanmar, including through the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus.  We hope that wisdom and good sense will prevail, and we stand ready to do our part.

 

.    .    .    .     .

 

 

QUESTION

 

Miss Cheng Li Hui: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) what is the specific assistance that Singapore has offered to other countries to deal with COVID-19; and (b) how has Singapore assisted India as it confronts its latest wave of the pandemic.

 

REPLY

 

          Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: It has been more than a year since the first known cases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, despite important progress such as the rapid development of several vaccines, we are seeing the emergence of new variants of the COVID-19 virus, and renewed waves of cases and deaths being reported across the globe. As I have mentioned previously, this is a virus that does not discriminate across language, race, religion, or borders. Multilateralism and international cooperation are, therefore, vital elements in our response to the pandemic, since no one is safe until everyone is safe.

 

2        During the Committee of Supply Debate on 1 March 2021, I explained that no matter how well we control the pandemic within our borders, life cannot resume and get back to the status quo unless the rest of the world is also made safer. This is why Singapore was an early supporter of the COVAX Facility, which is the flagship global mechanism to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries. We founded, and we co-chair the informal Friends of the COVAX Facility (FOF), a 15-member group, to catalyse discussions on the operationalisation of the COVAX Facility. COVAX’s primary value is in ensuring that subsidised vaccines will be allocated to 92 low and lower-middle income countries. Singapore has contributed US$5 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) towards this purpose. In less than three months, the COVAX Facility has delivered more than 49 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 120 countries. The world would be collectively worse off without COVAX.

 

3        To support regional efforts to combat the virus, Singapore has contributed US$100,000 to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund. The Fund will be used to procure medical equipment and other supplies for frontline response and preventative measures, as well as to finance long-term research and development of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Notably, with further contributions from ASEAN Dialogue Partners, US$10.5 million of this Fund will also be used for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines for ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

 

4        In addition, our role as a transit hub has enabled us to help repatriate other countries’ nationals, even as commercial flight connections are affected by global travel restrictions. As a result, many were able to go home and be reunited with their families and loved ones. In turn, Singaporeans have also benefited from similar assistance provided by our friends around the world.

 

5        We also offered what we can to our neighbours and partners around the world while taking care of our domestic needs. Singapore has provided critical medical supplies such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines, diagnostic test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), oximeters, surgical masks, hand sanitisers, thermometers and oxygen-related supplies to our friends in the region including Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, China and India, as well as those further away like Fiji, Palau, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. We are also planning to donate medical supplies to countries in Latin America, such as Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador. Looking ahead, Singapore will continue to assist countries in need within our means during this challenging time.

 

6       The Singapore Government’s international assistance during this pandemic has also served as a catalyst for wider efforts within our community. We have witnessed a wide range of contributions from private sector entities and philanthropic organisations in Singapore. The Singapore Government had provided seed funding to the Singapore Red Cross Society (SRC)’s fundraising effort for humanitarian assistance to affected communities in China. This fundraising drive raised more than S$6 million. The SRC has also coordinated the supply of medical aid worth S$900,000 to other countries. In addition, the Temasek Foundation has to date donated diagnostic test kits, oxygen concentrators, and BiPAP machines to over 30 countries around the world.

 

7        Singapore’s contributions to India have been addressed by the Written Answer to Question 8 given on 10 May 2021.

 

 

MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SINGAPORE

11 MAY 2021

 

 

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Singapore