News / Asia

Singapore's Lee Quoted Calling Burmese Generals "Stupid"

Lee Kwan Yew, founding father of Singapore, at a meeting with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Massimov, in October 2010 in Singapore.
Lee Kwan Yew, founding father of Singapore, at a meeting with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Massimov, in October 2010 in Singapore.

A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable quotes Singapore's founding father Lee Kwan Yew as describing Burma's ruling generals as "stupid" and "dense."

The cable says Lee told U.S. diplomats in 2007 that dealing with the Burmese junta leaders was like "talking to dead people." He is quoted saying they had mismanaged the country's natural resources and that he "had given up on them a decade ago."

The cable, released by the website WikiLeaks, recorded a conversation between Lee and two senior U.S. diplomats. It says Lee held out little hope for improvements in Burma until a younger generation of less "obtuse" generals takes power.

He said even then, it is doubtful they will ever share power with Aung San Suu Kyi, the popular opposition leader who was freed from years of house arrest last month. Lee said she is "anathema" to the junta.

The cable, one of a quarter-million confidential dispatches made public by WikiLeaks, also quotes Lee saying China has more influence over the generals than any other country. He reportedly said India was trying to counter China's influence, but "lacked China's finer grasp of how Burma worked."

Lee was prime minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990 and remains a senior adviser to the government. He was quoted in previous WikiLeaks cables making embarrassing comments about some of Singapore's other neighbors.

Singapore officials have dismissed the cables as "cocktail gossip" and said they are often out of context.

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