Lee Kuan Yew once said that dealing with Myanmar’s military junta was like ‘talking to dead people’

United States Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen (right) meets in his Pentagon office with Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew (center), of Singapore, and Singapore’s Ambassador to the U.S. Chan Heng Chee (left) on February 29, 2000. PHOTO/WIKICOMMONS

Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away early Monday morning aged 91, was one of global politics’ great orators. In his own words: not even his enemy could accuse him of not speaking his mind.

And, as one Wikileaks cable proved, he had a lot to say about Myanmar.

In a 2007 conversation with then US Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen, Lee blasted ASEAN for admitting Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam into the organisation in the 1990s.

The statesman called Myanmar’s leaders “dense” and “stupid”, saying they had mismanaged the country’s vast natural resources and that he had given up on them a decade previous. Dealing with them was, he said, like “talking to dead people”. His suggested solution was for younger, less “obtuse” army officers to share power with pro-democracy activists.

In the same cable, Lee commented that Beijing, which had the greatest influence on Myanmar’s leadership of any foreign government, was worried it would “blow up” and threaten Chinese investments while India had failed to understand how the country worked.

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