Politicians too need human rights awareness and training

Lee Hsien Loong’s recent comments on the regime change that toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979 cannot be taken as the position of Singaporeans. HO/AFP/G20 PRESS OFFICE

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent comments have touched on a raw nerve and awoken sleeping dragons.

His denouncement of the regime change that toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979, and his denial of the legitimacy of the Cambodian government under Heng Samrin that saved the lives of over four million Cambodians with support from the Vietnamese forces, has been all over the media.

His comments suggest an insolence to the more than 1.6 million Khmer Rouge victims and to those who sacrificed their lives in ousting the genocidal regime under the leadership of Pol Pot and his ultra-Maoist policies.

His comments have come across as supporting an autocratic and repressive rule by a dictatorial figure.

Until now, Singaporean politicians have never condemned the auto-genocide conducted by the Pol Pot administration.

Led by Lee Kuan Yew’s own strategic agenda for the region, Singapore provided military assistance and denied offering humanitarian assistance to the survivors of the Khmer Rouge who went fleeing into Vietnam and Thailand.

Pushing its might in the region, Singapore instrumentally rallied the global community to deny legitimacy of Heng Samrin’s pro-Vietnamese- communist regime.

Singapore was sadly also the first Southeast Asian country that offered to provide military assistance to guerrilla forces based in Vietnam to fight against Heng Samrin’s regime.

Lee’s comments regrettably come as no surprise since these were the very same views held by his father.

Lee Kuan Yew had frequently and openly expressed his disdain against the Vietnamese intervention.

Politically, Singapore saw Vietnam as a “growing force” and a “rogue nation”.

To it, Vietnam was viewed as trying to impose communism on the region.

Prime Minister Lee’s views clearly cannot be taken as the Singaporean position, however, as so many Singaporeans have taken to social media to express their utter distaste over the comments.

With this week marking the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen massacre, I recall previous controversial comments that have come from the political benches.

Many of these are to the revulsion of Singaporeans.

In 1989, Lee Kuan Yew notoriously made a statement in support of the Tiananmen massacre that riled me.

It was utterly insensitive to the feelings of millions of Chinese people who were yearning for democracy in China.

The comments deeply hurt the feelings of the families who lost loved ones who were brutally crushed to death by rolling tanks.

It is unfortunate that our politicians have got away with so much in the past with things said and done.

There is a clear way forward, I believe. By educating people on their human rights and teaching them how to stand up and collectively rebut such views and statements is the way to go.

Politicians too need human rights awareness and training.

Some of them come into office oblivious of internationally protected rights and of historical knowledge.

This recent spat is a stark reminder as to why the region needs to constantly engage with the human rights community and non-governmental organisations.

In a perfect world, such statements would be avoided and not tolerated.

I firmly believe that I speak alongside the many Singaporeans who have expressed moral outrage at the comments made by the prime minister.

Many Singaporeans share the disgust of the horrors of the crimes against inhumanity that occurred not only at the Killing Fields but elsewhere in the region during those trying historical years.

I sincerely hope that the tensions do not escalate further between the two countries.

If an apology is sought by the Cambodian side, I am optimistic that Singaporean diplomacy will grant this graciously somehow.

Our leaders need to be acutely aware of the several landmines of sensitivities in the region.

More so now when political and trade stability is critical for the progress of Asean’s 10 countries and all the communities in it.

The rest of the world is watching Asean as a single trading unit.

We need to get our internal squabbles out of the way through mutual respect and recognition.

 

M Ravi

* The aythor is a Singapore-based international human rights lawyer. His extensive work on various human rights topics can be found on his website at www.mravilaw.com.

** Article first appeared as an Op Ed in the Phnom Penh Post.

 

 

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15 Responses to “Politicians too need human rights awareness and training”

  • Harder Truths:

    The US is now a pariah nation and so are America’s balls-carrier nations including $G.

    $G is already being sidelined and will not be integrated into the greater BRI with Malaysia and other SEA nations.

    No one wants to work with idiots.

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  • But:

    But China also dont admit 六四.

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  • Ramarau Perumal:

    Caught in a time capsule.Poor guy can see.

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  • WTFish:

    Wouldn’t you agree?

    Arrogant spoiled brat, throw tantrum and slap people, antagonize neighbors around.. don’t know if you remember, before holy j*n*, someone?? ended, don’t know if anything to do with putting up with his character? Now brother, sister, nephews niece, all have to run away. Factual events, no fake!.

    If not for his father, this kind of character would likely died hungry on the street, comparatively speaking.

    Such ego characters, indicatively will likely have no qualm in selling off his own country men. Why I say this? Even father mother last wish also denied. WTF….

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  • TruBlu:

    Since Vietnam n Cambodia now co-exist peacefully and graciously, NO NEED for this joker to surface this matter.
    Trying to be SUAVE EDLER STATESMAN when he is not even a CARING N RESPONSIBLE LOCAL LEADER says alot about the EGO OF THE PERSON

    LETS NOT MAKE MORE ENEMIES IN THE REGION,TINY LITTLE RED DOT N HER PEOPLE NEED MORE FRENS IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD?

    DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

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  • lying pap liars lky and son:

    Not surprised at all.

    lying pap liar lky concocted Operation Cold Storage to clamp up political colleagues for the sake of political advantage. History as correctly rewritten has shown the evil deeds.

    lying pap liar lky son similarly tried to shore up political standing by talking about nonsense, smoking and pork soup in China and regime change in Canbodia. Regional reaction by China, Vietnam and Cambodia has show the truth clown at his clownish peak.

    one is a lying liar the other is a lying liar clown. WTF.

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  • bgkl:

    The support of Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge is quite a surprising revelation. I thought there are 2 main pillars that support our foreign policy:

    1) Politicians to make friends or at least stay neutral with as many countries as possible, if not all.

    2) SAF only operates on total defence basis.

    That tone-deaf Pinky Ass already screwed up with a stubborn, old opinion and he’s not going to be repentant about it anytime soon? Mr. 70%, you still want to endorse and vote for evil?

    Please don’t mess up point 2. Chao papayas will pay with their lives for it.

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  • HarderTruths:

    Does not matter to me. I just like to watch the many clowns entertain everyone. Just imagine how boring life would be otherwise.

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  • 3 meals:

    How come our super star debater ms Vivian so tiam tiam?

    Hello, time to come clean. Don’t call ponding if it’s flooding lah….

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  • Partial truth?:

    What Mr Lee said about vietnam invasion , opposers like great asia or others claim “ang mo propaganda”, but “China propaganda” also concurred. So because of bad blood , china also propaganda ??? What say u great asia ?

    https://www.zhihu.com/question/25673808
    越南侵略柬埔寨的真实动机是什么?

    “侵略”….

    Somtimes the truth is the truth. Regardless of face issue or ugliness. Just that people lack the self esteem to accept the truth. Remember 舉頭三尺有神靈.

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  • Superior man is moral person:

    “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace … Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with greater kindness.”

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  • Bapak:

    Dont expect a person who can say mee siam mai hum to know history.

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  • UJokeLah:

    The writer lacks fundamental understanding of the state of wickedness and hypocrisy of an elitist leadership or governance.
    It is not that they are not aware or educated about human rights but that they, and the people they breed(brainless sheep) under their leadership, are all incapable of …love. Hence, their communications are filled with legal and moral languages. Morality and laws are tools of control and punishment, basically to get idiots(sheep) to conform.

    But one who walks in love fulfils all laws.

    There is no love in this nation(is expected) hence it is a word no one dares(because none qualified in such a hypocritical society) talk about( morality and laws are hence substitute for the idiots).

    Singapore is an embarassment when they proudly display their moral badges and laws in condemning others when they are basically a hypocritical and soulless society under the rule of mammon.

    Only another type of idiots, who gather on Sundays, talk about love as a subject(dramatize) while misleading their flocks of sheep into a lascivious affair with mammon encapsulated in the form of an invisible man in the sky who sole creative existence and purpose is to bless(blasphemous) ….me me me me. What a joke!

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  • Stupid Harder Stupid Truths:

    ok loh!, since kenna sidelined and America’s balls-carrier nation, then lets get US to based 1/2 of its 7th fleet in SG !!!

    SG became prosperous because it was a UK Far East naval base.

    Why can’t SG prosper again by becoming US Far East navel base?

    come lah ! disturb SG some more! push SG some more!, see what you get loh!!

    Harder Truths:
    The US is now a pariah nation and so are America’s balls-carrier nations including $G.

    $G is already being sidelined and will not be integrated into the greater BRI with Malaysia and other SEA nations.

    No one wants to work with idiots.

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  • CapitalistPunks:

    If people love each other, you think they will commit offence against their neighbors and break the law. If your leaders love the people, will they lead them into the paths of entrapment, temptations and EVIL – in worthless high-rise living and the pursuit of glory(high pay) which ultimately make destructive idiotic slaves of everyone?

    If they love you, why use laws to shut you up, arrest or bankrupt the people who dare oppose or complain too much?(are you a child? )

    If you, the muse, love your leaders or government, why the need to vote and change?

    If alternative leaders love you, why seduce you with arguments which install , ordain or set them up at the height of corrupt power structure,of abuse and wickedness?

    On and on…. You live and capitalize on self, nothing but self, and there is thus no love, no depth but corruption and destruction , in such a society(nobody really care about each other – hence our doors are “shut towards each other” all over the land – especially foreigners.

    I don’t think, I know you rather save your drowning hand phone than your drowning neighbours, if you know what I mean( just like your leaders will justify high salary – for the elites – over your dead pathetic bodies)….. just being real ….economically

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