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Singapore, happy to import and export containers but short on compassion

Singapore Rejects Vessel That Saved 40 Boatpeople From Drowning

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
PHUKET: The refusal by Singapore to allow a cargo ship carrying 40 rescued boatpeople to dock there will arouse indignation and raise the issue of Asean's silent endorsement of ethnic cleansing in Burma.

The boatpeople - most likely Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Burma's Rakhine province - were plucked from the Andaman Sea by the Vietnam-registered Nosco Victory about 6pm on December 5.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority told Australian newspaper correspondent Lindsay Murdoch today that the rescue ship could not dock because the people on board the vessel ''do not appear to be persons eligible to enter Singapore.''

The 40 who were rescued by the Nosco Victory and nine others taken onto a second ship were believed to be the only survivors among 207 people who were on the stricken vessel when it sank.

They were in the water for 30 hours before being picked up. When last observed, according to the report in 'The Sydney Morning Herald,' the Nosco Victory remained at anchor off Singapore.

The Singapore authorities claimed the ship should have sailed for the nearest port rather than continuing on its planned course to Singapore after picking up the survivors.

The Singapore government, like Thailand, Malaysia and Burma a member of Asean, is known to cooperate with Thailand on aerial surveillance of the Andaman Sea and to share some information about the movement of unwelcome refugee boats.

Phuketwan understands the Asean governments of the Andaman Sea region are reluctant to involve themselves in the Rohingya issue - even though some observers now classify what's happening to the Rohingya inside Burma as genocide.

The Singapore rejection is likely to bring further attention to the attitude of Asean countries and probably trigger criticism of the region's lack of commitment to international human rights.

Singapore is a prosperous first-world city state but compassion has never been one of its strong points.

If the survivors are confirmed as Rohingya, as seems likely, it will be the fourth sinking of Rohingya boats since october 30.

More people are fleeing Burma by sea than in any previous ''sailing season'' because of so-called community violence that has seen at least 170 killings and thousands of homes burned to the ground since June.

The Aljazeera television news service screened a controversial 50-minute documentary entitled 'The Hidden Genocide' at the weekend and three Rohingya boats carring hundreds of men and boys landed in Thailand yesterday.

News of Singapore's refusal to allow the rescue vessel to dock on a technicality will alarm observers in Washington, where a regional answer to the race-hate Rohingya issue is being actively encouraged.

US President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Burma last month and called for an end to violence.

''Our history shows us that hatred in the human heart can recede; that the lines between races and tribes fade away,'' he said in a memorable speech.

Perhaps copies of what the president had to say should be distributed more widely in Singapore.

The official statement from the MPA reads:

''The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) received a Pre-Arrival Notification that the Vietnam-registered bulk carrier MV Nosco Victory would be calling at the Port of Singapore. MPA also received a report from MRCC Port Blair [in the Andaman and Nicobar islands] that MV Nosco Victory had rescued a total of 40 persons from the sea off the coast of Myanmar.

''Taking into consideration the safety and security of the ship, and following consultations with MPA, MRCC Port Blair advised the shipmaster of MV Nosco Victory to proceed to the nearest place of safety to disembark the rescued persons. The Master ignored these suggestions to proceed to the nearest place of safety, and insisted on proceeding to Singapore as its next port of call, which would take at least three days of sailing time from the point of rescue.

''As information provided by the vessel's Master concerning the rescued persons is sketchy and there is no other official documentation to assist at this point, they do not appear to be persons eligible to enter Singapore.

''Under these circumstances, MV Nosco Victory was denied entry into the Port of Singapore.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Squeaky clean Singapore: "You should be Ashamed!"

Posted by Logic on December 11, 2012 20:31


Are the Rohingyas people not originally from Bangladesh, can't Bangladesh be persuaded into taking them in as they are originally of Bangladeshi decent and are of the same muslim faith allowing them to more easily assimilate into that culture and country .Singapore,Thailand and Malaysia are merely trying to stop becoming over run by these illegal economic immigrants as we have been in certain parts of Europe especially Italy and Spain by boat loads of illegal economic immigrants from Africa who have overwhelm local services with the demands they place on them and the local people,, even Australia is being forced to introduce harsh measures to hold back the flood of illegal immigrants trying to set up over there.

Posted by Scunner on December 11, 2012 20:56

Editor Comment:

If religious hegemony was a requirement throughout the world, where would you be, Scunner? The fact is, having you home burned down and your relatives killed should earn you a few brownie points towards being a refugee. If your forefathers have lived in the country for 400 years and you still haven't gained citizenship, surely something about the country has to be a little warped. Let's see, Scunner, how you feel about being called an economic migrant when you've been asked for permission to marry, to have children, and to travel more than a few kilometres, you neighborhood has been burned out and your friends have ''disappeared.'' It's called ethnic cleansing, Scunner. It's an idea that came from Europe.


Ancient Chinese text recorded that General Ran Min ordered the extermination of the Wu Hu especially the Jie people during the Wei Jie war in the fourth century AD. People with racial characteristics of high-bridged nose and bushy beard were killed, and 200,000 were reportedly massacred. This is the earliest recorded case of ethnic cleansing. Nowhere near Europe.

Posted by chrisT on December 11, 2012 22:27

Editor Comment:

I think the 20th century, the closest century to this one, leaves Europe well ahead on points for genocide, chrisT. But it's true that most ideas of all kinds, good and bad, certainly have sprung from Asia.


There's many things I like and admire about Singapore and their citizens but this is not one of those things.

However it needs to be said that if they were in the water for 30 hours, surely many of them would have needed, perhaps even immediate, medical attention.

Taking that in consideration, the decision by the captain not to seek the nearest port where such medical services could be provided does seem a bit irresponsible.

I was not there so I don't know what the reality was but at least in this context Singapore does have a valid point.

By denying entry they however further delay that medical attention, unless they have dispatched medical staff to the ship. I wonder if PW knows if such action has been taken ?

@ Scunner

You are comparing apples with tractors. Just because you can find both on a farm doesn't mean they are one and the same.

Moroccans crossing illegally to Europe do not suffer from genocide. They are not denied citizenship. They are not hated in their own country.

They are economic migrants. Rohingya are genuine refugees fleeing to save their lives.

You sure are one compassionate human being.

Posted by Andrew on December 11, 2012 22:34


Ethnic cleansing is just the bottle, the wine is there since thousands of years. If you think that as an idea from Europe, then Europe would be the birth place of mankind. It's just the words that are a Serbian invention. And in Bosnia and Croatia you could see not only men and boys on the run. What did the Rohingha you interviewed tell, why no women and girl and old people on the boats? I remember the Vietnamese boat people also whole families.

Posted by Lena on December 11, 2012 22:34

Editor Comment:

In Rohingya culture, women stay inside or near the home. Perilous voyages are not for them.


@Scunner, I suggest you go and read some history, then feel ashamed of your own comment. Check this link

Posted by dbate_me on December 12, 2012 07:57

Editor Comment:

Some comments from others are not publishable. Scunner's later response ('Ha ha works every time do you ever sleep little old man') is an indication he's on a short holiday from teakdoor or thaivisa.


Wrong, very wrong. please be assured that the MPA does not represent the sentiments of most SINGAPOREANS. I hope the government will take steps of compassion on this issue as it is very wrong, morally wrong for this to happen.

Posted by jyanzi on December 13, 2012 07:12


Please note that Singapore is a small country with very limited space and resources.We can't afford more people to come in,especially without the proper documents.Then you might think,"how difficult is it to accept 40 people?" Well,when you accept these 40 people without the proper documents into your country, you are encouraging more to come. Dont look at an issue at its surface alone.
P.S. you might want to study how Singapore helped the boat people (around 1975) who came to her country despite her own vested interests.
And btw, Singapore is not a country with no compassion.

Posted by Anonymous on May 4, 2015 05:06

Editor Comment:

How much pressure has Singapore applied to have the Burmese government treat Rohingya equitably? Zero. What is the scale of Singapore's involvement in helping the Burmese generals in suits improve their life savings? Massive. I think we all know and are quietly revolted by the limits of Singapore's space and its compassion.


I suggest you go do a fact-check before misleading your readers. And to use "revoltingly" is revoltingly wrong.

Posted by Anonymous on May 16, 2015 09:18

Editor Comment:

''I think we all know and are quietly revolted by the limits of Singapore's space and its compassion.''

Quick fact check: We did not use the word ''revoltingly.'' Any other distortions to add, anonymous?

There will be some smug smiles on the faces of officials in Singapore today as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia feel the scorn of more compassionate nations while Singapore does . . . nothing to help. Nada. Nothing.


It would appear that some commenters are also now revolting.

Posted by Manowar on May 16, 2015 14:27



I have searched the PW site for the use of the word "revoltingly", and the first ever mention of this word on this site was an incidence I am replying thereto.

May I suggest that the mushrooms were too strong..? Probably a supplier thereof has failed, and mushrooms now are revolting, striking and manifesting their whole new meaning!

Posted by Sue on May 16, 2015 20:45


It is custom/tradition that Asian countries not talk, keep fingers off 'internal affairs' of neighbor countries. However the Rohingya Exodus is not any longer a country 'internal Affair'. The fact that Myanmar is not going to participate the May 29th Summit if the word 'Rohingya' will be used says something about Myanmar were actually 1.3 million Rohingya people are living. If Myanmar not join the May 29th Summit, than the Summit better not held. Unless other Asian countries agree to a maritime and economic blockade of Myanmar until Myanmar admit that 1.3 million Rohingyas are living in Myanmar and will change attitude.

Posted by Kurt on May 17, 2015 11:07


If you are harping on the difference between 'revolted' and 'revoltingly', then I have nothing left to say of your weak retaliation. Singapore is in no way obliged to help out. I really can't be bothered to argue with you anymore and I was being serious about you doing a fact-check. And yes Manowar, I was and am revolting.

Posted by Eva on May 17, 2015 19:28

Editor Comment:

How nice that you have a name, Eva.
This is better than being stateless, oppressed, and without hope of finding compassion in Singapore.

Monday May 20, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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