Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Solidarity groups urge Singapore to renew Burmese activists travel and work documents

I received this letter, concerning the plight of the Burmese activists in Singapore, through my facebook. I was also told the letter was faxed today,

H.E. Mr George Yong-Boon Yeo
Minister for Foreign Affairs

Solidarity groups urge Singapore to renew activists travel and work documents

Your Excellency:

We, the undersigned groups supporting human rights and democracy in Burma, urge the Government of Singapore to promptly renew the work and travel permits of six Burmese activists who were studying and working there.

It is our belief that the six individuals were targeted because of their efforts to advocate for human rights and democratic transition in their home country. The Singaporean government’s actions contradict the spirit and content of its own statements made at the United Nations and other international forums on the situation in Burma since September 2007.

The actions and statements of the Burmese nationals in question were fully consistent with public statements made by you and other Singaporean leaders. They have cooperated with the Singapore authorities in working within the constraints of local laws.

The actions taken by the six, in response to the crises caused by the Saffron Revolution in September as well as Cyclone Nargis and the sham referendum in May, were peaceful and constructive. Their desire for democratic transition in Burma is consistent with Singapore’s foreign policy. Fundamental political and economic reforms which constitute the main focus of the Burmese activists, also serves the regional security and economic interests of Singapore and ASEAN.

Singapore was the first country to ratify the ASEAN Charter, and bears a responsibility to promote its spirit and content. It has committed to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. These six activists were working to promote and defend these goals. We understand three of them have been forced to leave Singapore but are anxious to return.

We call upon the Singaporean government to treat Burmese citizens working and studying in Singapore equitably and with fairness. Allowing Burmese in Singapore to strengthen their knowledge of human rights and democracy is a vital contribution to Burma’s transition to democracy.

We look forward to Singapore’s timely renewal of the work and travel documents of these six activists. We trust that Singapore’s commitment to progress in transition to democracy will continue, and that Singapore will desist from restricting the opportunities of Burmese working and studying in Singapore.

Thank you for your kind attention,

1. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma
2. Burma Campaign Australia
3. Burma Partnership
4. Burma Today
5. Burma Workers’ Rights Protection Committee
6. Burmese Women’s Union (Japan Branch)
7. Committee for Asian Women
8. Forum for Democracy in Burma
9. Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines)
10. Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women
11. Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma
12. Network for Democracy and Development
13. Nonviolence International Southeast Asia
14. Palaung State Liberation Front
15. Shan Women’s Action Network
16. Suara Rakyat Malaysia

H.E. Lee Hsieng Loong
Prime Minister
Orchard Road, Istana Annexe
Singapore 238823

H.E. Surin Pitsuwan
Secretary General
The ASEAN Secretariat, 70 Jl. Sisingamangaraja
Jakarta, Indonesia 12110

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