July 10, 2023
JAKARTA – There has been no sign of improvement in the political situation in Myanmar since the 2021 coup, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said following a meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said he shared his counterpart’s pessimism.
Singapore is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which barred Myanmar’s junta from its high-level meetings after the putsch plunged the country into violence, with the military battling on multiple fronts to try to crush an armed pro-democracy resistance movement.
Balakrishnan told a press conference a lack of progress meant it was not the time to re-engage at a high-level with Myanmar’s junta, but said current ASEAN chair Indonesia was engaging with “a wide spectrum of stakeholders” on Myanmar, a reference to talks involving opponents of the coup.
“You do need everyone ultimately to sit down and negotiate. I don’t know how long it will take. The last time it took 25 years for some form of democratic transition to occur in Myanmar. I hope it won’t take that long,” he said, adding that he remained “pessimistic.”
Blinken said he agreed with his Singaporean counterpart and that Washington supports ASEAN’s efforts on Myanmar.
“It’s very important that we continue – all of us – to sustain the appropriate pressure on the junta and look for ways, of course, to engage the opposition,” he said.
The United States has issued sanctions against Myanmar’s military and its companies, and urged other countries to stop weapons sales to the junta.
A UN expert in May identified $254 million of supplies shipped from entities in Singapore to the Myanmar military.
Asked about the report, Balakrishnan said Singapore’s policy was to “do our best” to prevent arms or so-called dual-use items that can be used in warfare getting to Myanmar and said the city-state would act on the UN expert’s findings.