State Counselor Discusses Peace Process, Corruption, and Sexual Assault Cases in Singapore

By Tin Htet Paing 2 December 2016

RANGOON — State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi discussed the latest trending news topics in a meeting with the Burmese community in Singapore on Thursday, at the end of her three-day visit to the island nation.

About 7,000 Burmese people attended the event at the Big Box Event Hall in Singapore’s Jurong East neighborhood, and the State Counselor accepted selected questions from the community. The questions ranged from the role of government in reducing child rape cases—a widespread public outrage—to the recent military clashes in northern Shan State and to the state of the struggling peace process.

A series of high-profile child rape cases over the past few months has prompted widespread public concern and inspired campaigns for harsher sentencing of child sex offenders, to possibly include the death penalty. In her Singapore speech, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi emphasized the need to analyze the root causes of sexual abuse against minors. While harsher punishments for sex offenders should be considered, she said, harsher punishments alone would not reduce the number of cases.

“It is also a social issue,” she said. “We have to analyze why there are so many rape cases against minors and what kind of weak points our society has.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also stressed that it would be important to find out if rape cases are connected with parenting habits or the social environment of the children.

“We need to analyze these cases from a social perspective, and then we will decide how we should resolve these cases in every possible way,” she said.

Singapore’s Burmese community also asked the State Counselor if the recent clashes in northern Shan State have had any impact on the 21st Century Panglong Conference, and if the government had a plan for improving the lives of ethnic peoples beyond achieving a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi answered that the recent clashes in northern Shan State have pointed a spotlight on the importance of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference.

“Some don’t have the courage to achieve peace, when the mistrust [between communities] is bigger than the desire for peace,” she said.

Since Nov. 20, a coalition of four ethnic armed groups has carried out a military offensive against the Burma Army in northern Shan State. The ethnic armed groups include the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). The ongoing clashes have displaced thousands of people.

Armed clashes, dissatisfaction, and mistrust between communities over many decades have all contributed to the unresolved peace process, she said.

Another question posed by the Singapore Burmese community concerned her plan to improve the government administration system. The questioner pointed out that many current government officials are practicing the same bureaucratic schemes as the officials of the corrupt previous administration.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged the attendees to participate in the fight against corruption by submitting complaints about corrupt government officials directly to the State Counselor’s Office.

During her electoral campaign, she pledged to tackle long-rooted corruption in government as one of her first priorities. In Singapore, the State Counselor visited the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). Singapore is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, ranking eighth out of 168 nations in a 2015 report from the Berlin-based graft monitor Transparency International. Burma ranked 147th in the same index.