Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) whether the Government has data on the number of Singaporeans who have been placed under exit bans by the foreign countries they are living in; (b) if so, what is the total number of such persons for each of the last five years; (c) what is the breakdown of the countries involved; and (d) what are the top five most common reasons given for the exit bans.
The Government does not have data on the number of Singaporeans who have been placed under exit bans by foreign countries. Foreign authorities do not have an obligation to inform the Government when exit bans are issued to Singaporeans.
Mr Vikram Nair: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) whether the Government has investigated the allegations in the report by the UN Special Rapporteur claiming that Singapore-based entities had shipped US$254 million worth of supplies to the Myanmar military; (b) if so, what is the update; and (c) whether any actions are being taken.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) how many Singapore-based companies have been identified by the United Nations Special Rapporteur in Myanmar in the sale of dual-use items, raw materials and spare parts for military related uses in Myanmar; (b) what actions have been taken against such companies; and (c) what is the number of such companies against which actions have been taken.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Prime Minister in view of the report published on 17 May 2023 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur in Myanmar relating to Singapore companies or Singapore-based entities implicated in the sales of dual-use items, raw materials and spare parts for military related uses (a) how many cases involved Singapore-based banks in the financing of the transactions, including trade financing; and (b) what actions have been taken or are being taken against such banks.
1 Let me first make clear that the Singapore Government has not imposed a general trade embargo on Myanmar. We do not want to add to the suffering of Myanmar’s civilian population. In 2022, Singapore’s total bilateral trade with Myanmar was S$5.8 billion. The allegations in the May 2023 report by UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar Thomas Andrews pertain to supposedly US$254 million worth of goods over a two-year period. Nonetheless, we take Mr Andrews’ report very seriously, and have requested him to provide specific and verifiable evidence to aid our efforts. An initial list of 47 entities were identified. More recently, another 91 entities were identified too. I seek Members’ understanding that this is an interim update as the investigations are ongoing.
2 First, nine entities are no longer registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, which means that they can no longer carry on business or operate as legal entities in Singapore. This includes entities that were allegedly involved in the transfer of components and spare parts for fighter aircraft, equipment for the Myanmar Navy, as well as radios, research and equipment for electronic warfare.
3 Second, most of the 47 entities no longer have business facilities with Singapore banks. The banks will review the remaining accounts and take appropriate measures, including enhanced scrutiny to ensure that the transactions processed by these entities are not suspicious. Such measures would curtail their ability to continue with any undesirable business.
4 As Myanmar is on the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force, financial institutions in Singapore have also been applying enhanced due diligence for Myanmar-linked customers and transactions that present higher risks.
5 Third, we are looking into specific details of the alleged US$254 million worth of “arms and related goods” that were shipped through Singapore-based entities to the Myanmar military. In Mr Andrews’ report, there were no indications that specific armaments were being transferred to the Myanmar military. Instead, under the category of “arms”, what was cited were only spare parts and equipment, without details of what these constituted. The other major categories of items covered in the report included “dual use supplies” which included items such as computers, electrical components, and medical equipment. Another category of items was “manufacturing equipment” which comprised items like welding machines and overhead cranes; and “raw materials” which covered items such as steel beams and aluminium ingots, pipes and valves, and fabric.
6 Members would appreciate from these descriptions that the items do not necessarily constitute “arms” or weaponry in its ordinary meaning. Many of them such as computers and medical equipment are also non-controlled items. It is difficult to isolate specific suspicious transactions from such broad categories. We are therefore seeking more details such as export transaction documents to ascertain how these transactions are connected to the manufacture of weapons in Myanmar, so that our checks and investigations can be more thorough, and effective based on objective evidence. At the same time, let me make clear that it is not the Singapore Government’s policy intention to block legitimate trade with Myanmar. Doing so would further set back the country’s development and exacerbate the suffering of the civilian population of Myanmar.
7 Finally, I would like to re-state categorically that the Singapore Government has not conducted any military sales to the Myanmar military in recent years, including during the period covered in Mr Andrews’ report – that is, between February 2021 and December 2022. Indeed, Mr Andrews himself reaffirmed in his report that “there are no indications the Government of Singapore has approved, or is involved in, the shipment of arms and associated materials to the Myanmar military.”
8 We will continue to work closely and constructively with Mr Andrews to seek specific, verifiable, and where possible court admissible information to advance our investigations.
9 In conclusion, let me reiterate that the Government remains committed to implementing our policy to prevent the transfer of arms and dual-use items which have been assessed to have potential military application to Myanmar, where there is serious risk that they may be used to inflict violence against unarmed civilians. We will not hesitate to take action against any individual or entity which contravenes this.
. . . . .
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
3 JULY 2023