SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s foreign minister spoke out on Tuesday about “alarming developments” in Myanmar but said he did not support widespread sanctions on the country in response to a coup there as these could hurt ordinary citizens.
Addressing parliament, Vivian Balakrishnan said he hoped detainees including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint could be released so they can negotiate with the ruling military council, which seized power on Feb. 1.
Balakrishnan said Singapore was concerned about violent clashes at protests, the arrests of civil servants, internet blackouts and troop deployments and armoured vehicles in city streets.
“These are alarming developments. We urge the authorities to exercise utmost restraint,” he said.
“We hope they will take urgent steps to de-escalate the situation. There should be no violence against unarmed civilians. And we hope that there will be peaceful resolution.”
Balakrishnan said Suu Kyi’s party had achieved a landslide victory in the November election and the coup was “a major setback” for Myanmar’s economy, adding Singaporean businesses might reassess their risk profiles and exposure to the country.
Singapore has been the largest source of foreign investment into Myanmar in recent years, according to reports by both governments. Some firms in the city-state have been targeted by activists for their links to military companies.
Imposing broad sanctions against Myanmar would hurt its population, where poverty was rife, Balakrishnan said, adding he had conveyed this point in discussions with Western counterparts, including Germany.
The United States and Britain are among countries that have announced or threatened sanctions in response to the Myanmar coup.
“We should not embark on widespread, generalised indiscriminate sanctions because the people who will suffer most will be the ordinary people in Myanmar,” said Balakrishnan.
His remarks on Myanmar were among the most comprehensive by a minister from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has a policy of non-interference in the affairs of its members.
Indonesia and Malaysia have been calling for a special meeting to discuss the situation in Myanmar, an ASEAN member.
Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies and Mark Heinrich
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.