[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Monday, November 12, 2007

[SMU Dialogue]

Q: Just a question about the event first, summing up some of the students questions and concerns, what are your thoughts about some of the questions?

Minister: They are a lively lot and I have always enjoyed coming back to SMU. The school has a great spirit. Even though it is a new university, it has very quickly developed its own character and I'm glad to see the energy of the students and the questions they were asking.

Q: There were a few questions about Myanmar and you said that you spoke with Mr Gambari earlier. Can you give us some more updates and also with the ASEAN Summit coming, what do you expect, how do you think Asean can actually help Myanmar move forward as well?

Minister: I think Gambari had a reasonable visit this time, it was not as...it did not go as far as some of us would have hoped but there were some progress. He did not get to see all the people he wanted to see but he did meet Aung San Suu Kyi and she did ask him to issue a statement on her behalf which he did last night when he arrived in Singapore. So Prime Minister Lee invited Special Envoy Gambari to come brief the East Asian leaders at the coming East Asia Summit on the 21st of November and I think it will be very good for the leaders of Asia to listen to him directly and then to affirm their collective support for his good offices.

Q: Do you find that the three way talks is still possible – (the talks proposed by Gambari) between Gambari, the Myanmar military and Aung San Suu Kyi?

Minister: Oh Mr Gambari said that these talks were not ruled out by the Myanmar government; what they were saying is it's too early and these are considerations which will take time to evolve...

Q: What's your personal hope or confidence level on that?

Min: I think eventually the process works and the different parties will have to talk. The presence of an intermediary from time to time may well be helpful. So instead of Gambari hurrying back and forth between the two sides; at some point in time, it will be more convenient for everybody to sit in the same room.

Q: When you see it happening…is the process as encouraging as what you have described earlier?

Minister: It will be a protracted process but we hope it will not take forever. It's important to have some sense of timing.

Q: What's a reasonable timing?

Minister: It's not for me to say. It's a complicated situation but I share the view that it should not take too long; it should not be an unending round of talks and promises not kept.

Q: Minister, with the ASEAN summit coming up, do you expect the issue of Myanmar to hijack the summit?

Minister: It will be an important item on the agenda but I don't see it hijacking the Summit. The most important item on the agenda is the signing of the Charter which will set the region on to a new course. On Myanmar, it's important for the ASEAN leaders to have a frank exchange of views with Prime Minister Thein Sein and for the East Asian leaders to express support for the good offices of Ibrahim Gambari. Climate change will also be a major item on the agenda because the various meetings all lead up to the coming UNFCCC conference in Bali.

Thank you very much.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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