23 Nov 2005

Singapore's drug stance hypocritical

Chee Soon Juan, Singapore Democratic Party - 23/11/2005


Singaporean opposition politician, Dr Chee Soon Juan, says Singapore's drug stance is hypocritical because the country invests heavily in Burma's military regime which has links to the drug trade.
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On Friday morning, December 2, convicted Australian drug trafficker, Van Nguyen, is set to become the first Australian to be hanged in Singapore. What do you think it will take now to save him?

I really think at this time there's very little that anybody can do. It's just going to be the Singapore government keeping up its facade of wanting to be tough and showing to the world how tough it can be, but it's a shame. Van Nguyen doesn't need to be hanged. It's a crying shame that somebody like him has to go to the gallows for a silly, silly mistake that he has made.

The drugs Van Nguyen was carrying most probably came from Burma's golden triangle. Has Singapore demonstrated its opposition to this trade with the Burmese government?
Not only have they not demonstrated any kind of opposition, they continue to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest investor in Burma, knowing full well that this Burmese military regime right now that's running the country has been doing business and supporting or being supported by some of the biggest drug lords, biggest producers in Burma.

One of them is Lo Sing Han. And the Singapore government itself has been known to invest huge, huge sums of money with this Lo Sing Han.

It's been an issue that we've continued to try to bring up, but it's just met with stony silence here. It's complete censorship here on this issue by the local media here in Singapore.

Is that relationship still current?

I understand also there's huge amounts of drug money that's being laundered through Singapore that some of these experts have documented that I've brought up. But again, because of the way that our political system is run, there is no democracy and no free press here, the opposition is hampered and there's no freedom of speech here.

We cannot begin to even bring up some of these issues and investigate it, and bring this government to account.

This is where this whole hypocrisy is. Whilst we do big business with some of these drug lords and money floating around with this dirty drug money, small-time drug peddlers like Van Nguyen, transiting through Singapore, are arrested and hanged.

This is something that must be addressed, not just in Singapore but by the international community.

And perhaps, maybe, the Australian government would want to look into this situation just a little bit more, because as sure as this situation is going to continue, there will come a time when another Australian is going to be caught with drugs in Singapore and they're going to be hanged.

And if any responsible government is going to do anything, it has got to be now, it has got to be on this issue.

Of the 400 or so people hanged in Singapore, there have seen murderers and small-time couriers, but we haven't seen any of the Mr Bigs. Why do you think that's the case?

Sometimes the way that this operation is run is some of these mules get sent through - and they're just not one, there are quite a few of them - but what happens is some of these drug syndicates will tip off the narco police over here just to give them tips on who to look out for and they will be focusing their attention.

When they actually zero in on these one or two individuals, the rest are then let through. This is how sometimes the game is being played.

It's that kind of situation that we are very concerned about, where the small fish fry, the big-time drug traffickers get away scot-free, and this is the injustice of this whole situation right now that we're trying to address.

The Singaporean media hasn't been following this case but quite a few people have shown support and there's been some sort of debate. Can you tell us about that?

On the internet, yes. And it's growing.

It's very nascent, but there are Singaporeans who are very concerned about this issue even though the political situation here in Singapore is not easy for us. We get victimised, and a lot of times, people are very afraid to speak up.

The local media here will just not give any publicity to this issue here, save for a few so-called columnists who come out and toe the official line.

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Chee Soon Juan, Singapore Democratic Party
Dr Chee Soon Juan is a leading opposition politician from Singapore's democratic party who has spoken out on Van Nguyen's behalf.

This Viewpoint is adapted from Helen Vatsikopoulos' interview with Dr Chee Soon Juan, first broadcast on Asia Pacific Focus on November 19, 2005.

ABC 2005

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