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Aug 7, 2009 (DVB), Aung San Suu Kyi "is part of the problem" in Burma's political crisis because she still believes she is the government, said former Singaporean prime minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.
The comment, reported yesterday in Channel NewsAsia, was made during the inaugural Asia-Middle East Media Roundtable in Singapore yesterday.
Goh Chok Tong, now a Senior Minister in Singapore, had previously urged the ruling junta in Burma to hold free and fair elections next year following a meeting with Senior General Than Shwe in June.
The comments have stirred unrest among Burma observers, with the foreign affairs coordinator of the National League for Democracy-Liberated Areas, Nyo Ohn Myint , saying he was "very upset" by it.
"She has been under house arrest for 14 years and has never had a chance for dialogue or to show her ability to reconcile with the junta," he said.
"[Goh] should have a look at the real problem, which is not the democracy icon, but is the military junta."
Singapore is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, and follows the ASEAN policy of non-interference in internal matters of member states.
But, said Nyo Ohn Myint, the relationship runs deeper than straight diplomacy, with Singapore a significant investor in Burma.
"I think Singapore is protecting its business interests," he said. "Singapore, and ASEAN countries, always try not to side with the opposition but stick with the ruling generals."
Burmese political analyst Aung Naing Oo said however that the problem is "a conflict between idealism and pragmatic action".
"[Singapore] wants the country to move forward, and they see Aung San Suu Kyi as the obstacle, mainly because the military is not moving," he said.
"In a conflict that is not going anywhere, it is normal for anybody to look for alternatives. From a moral idealisitic point of view, then Goh Chok Tong is not right, but from pragmatic thinking he may be right."
He added that the comment symbolizes the conflict between Eastern and Western countries on what action to take on Burma, with the likes of China and India refraining from condemnation while the United States and European Union hold tough sanctions on the regime.
Reporting by Francis Wade