November 9, 2005
Chee Soon Juan … accuses the Singaporean government of financial links to Burmese drug lords.
Singapore's tough stand on drug traffickers is at odds with its own economic relationship with a Burmese drug lord, according to Singapore's leading opposition figure, Dr Chee Soon Juan.
"If the Government really wanted to eradicate or even minimise the problem, it would not be in bed with drug barons holed up and operating freely in Burma," he told a forum in Singapore.
The forum was held to highlight the plight of Nguyen Tuong Van, the Melbourne man convicted of trafficking heroin who exhausted all his legal options of appeal when in Singapore's President, S. R. Nathan, rejected his appeal for clemency.
Nguyen was convicted of trafficking 396 grams of heroin, which probably came from Burma's golden triangle, and will be hanged within weeks.
Singapore's Foreign Minister, George Yeo, last week defended the decision to hang Nguyen, saying "due to the seriousness of the offence and the need to hold firm our national position against drug trafficking, we are unable to change our decision".
Burma and Singapore have close economic relations. In Burma when you use a Visa credit card, the charge is made in Singapore dollars.
Dr Chee challenged the Government's right to assume the high moral ground. He cited the Singapore Government Investment Corporation's 1990s investment in the Myanmar Fund, controlled by Lo Hsing Han, one of Burma's most notorious drug lords, through his Asia World Company. Lo's son, Stephen Law, is married to a Singaporean and lives in Singapore.
The corporation, established in 1981 to manage Singapore's foreign reserves and with a portfolio of more than $US100 billion ($137 billion), describes itself as one of the world's largest fund management companies.
"Lo Hsing Han, the entire narcotics world knows, is one of the biggest drug lords, producing and trafficking in opium, the precursor to heroin, of which Nguyen Tuong Van has been convicted of trafficking," Dr Chee said.
The Singapore Government refused to comment on the Myanmar Fund investment when the connection was first reported in 1997 by SBS; but when the then prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, was confronted during a US visit later that year he admitted the government had quietly liquidated its investment.
"Singapore has hundreds of millions invested in Burma. The Myanmar Fund was just a very small portion of it," Dr Chee said. "Where has it gone, to other projects with Lo Hsing Han?" He called on the Government to state clearly that the Burmese military junta was not helping or turning a blind eye to drug trafficking.
The forum and vigil held for Nguyen in Singapore on Monday night was only the second such event ever held in Singapore. It attracted 100 mainly young people who came to listen and did not want to be quoted for fear of repercussions. They suggested reading blog sites where they posted their views in relative anonymity.
Dr Chee warned the gathering that police were probably videotaping the event and said their attendance showed "Singaporeans are not heartless, they may be voiceless but they do care about the situation over the death penalty".