October 8, 2007 / 2:20 PM / in 10 years

Singapore arrests opposition members in Myanmar protest

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A Singapore opposition party leader and several of his supporters were arrested on Monday as they gathered outside the presidential palace to protest the city-state’s trade ties with Myanmar’s ruling junta.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), in a statement on its Web site (here), said that four of its people, including Chee, were arrested by plain-clothes police as they began the protest in front of the presidential palace, also called the Istana.

Singapore police confirmed that Chee Soon Juan was taken into custody, but said a total of five SDP supporters had staged an unlawful demonstration in the park facing the main entrance of the Istana.

Under Singapore law, an assembly of five or more people requires a permit.

“The police seized the placards and arrested Chee and others,” said a police statement emailed to Reuters.

The police statement also warned the ”public not to participate in an assembly or procession that does not have a permit, as it is an offence to do so.

“The public should also stay away from the vicinity of such illegal protest activities. Our laws apply equally to all, whether local or foreigners. But Chee considers himself to be above the law,” the statement said.

Singapore is one of Myanmar’s biggest foreign investors and its trade with the country formerly known as Burma was worth S$1 billion ($680 million) last year.

European Union parliamentarians last week urged Singapore to ease strict bank secrecy laws to avoid becoming a financial haven for organized crime. It also urged Singapore to punish the Myanmar generals that ordered the bloody crackdown on anti-government protests by seizing their assets in Singapore.

Singapore’s prime minister on Friday denied accusations that it is a money-laundering centre for members of Myanmar’s military regime in a CNN interview broad cast on Friday.

“We don’t play dirty money, we don’t condone money laundering,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. “Our rules against that are as strict as any other financial centre - London, Hong Kong, New York,” Lee said.

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