LKY’s Relations to Opium Trade

singapore_opium
Standard

Thanks to some netizens for fact-checking, etc.

Verification, excerpts, and additional info below.

OpiumTrade

1) VERIFICATION (STARTING from KWA GEOK CHOO / MRS. LKY)

1. Kwa Geok Choo’s uncle-in-law is Tan Chin Tuan, whose nephew is Tony Tan.

Kwa Geok Choo’s mother was Wee Yew Neo. Wee Yew Neo’s father was Wee Theam Seng, the oldest Straits Chinese Christian and Manager of Chinese Commercial Bank.

2. Wee Theam Seng had a brother called Wee Theam Tew (a graduate of Raffles Institution and later a solicitor, who went to China in 1904 and served as the secretary of Prince Su, the military governor of Peking and Minister to the Emperor).

3. From Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources:

Wee Theam Tew, one of the leading Chinese legal practitioners of Singapore, comes of a family who have resided in the Straits Settlements for three generations. His grandfather, Mr. Wee Theam Soo, came from China as a literary graduate, and, together with Dr. Lim Boon Keng’s father and Mr. Cheng Hong Lim’s father, to whom reference is made on another page, acquired the first opium farm in the colony.

4. Lee Kuan Yew’s father, Lee Chin Koon,  was a storekeeper and depot manager for the Shell Oil Company. Lee Chin Koon’s father was Lee Hoon Leong. Hoon Leong worked with the Heap Eng Moh shipping line for tycoon Oei Tiong Ham. He rose in Oei’s estimation, until he was afforded power of attorney over the tycoon’s assets in Singapore.

5. Oei Tiong Ham was the wealthiest man of his era in the Dutch East Indies, and he made a fortune as an opium revenue farmer (opium farms were only part of his commercial empire).

Oei’s vast fortune amounted to 200 million guilders at his death and he lived in a large house in Semarang resembling a fairytale palace. There were no less than 40 servants and huge banquets specializing in different cuisines were given.

  • NOTE: The surnames Wee and Oei are part of the Huang Surname Clan (which puts “Wee Theam Soo” and “Oei Tiong Ham” in the same clan).

6. Oei Tiong Ham had 8 official wives who bore him 13 daughters and 13 sons (plus 18 concubines with a total of 42 children). His son, Oei Tjong Tiong, married Lim Chit Geck, the daughter of Lim Nee Soon.

7. Lim Nee Soon was one of the pioneers of rubber planting. His big investments in the pineapple industry won him the nickname “Pineapple King.” He was a generous charitable benefactor with a keen interest in social and community matters, and one of the most influential businessmen of the day.

Lim Nee Soon was a leading member of the Teochew clan association Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan.

On the formation of Huay Kuan association:

. . .The Kongsi’s accounts were kept private by the Seah family, and undisclosed even to other members. In 1929, a rival Teochew faction led by Lim Nee Soon founded a new association known as the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan (潮州八邑会馆). The Huay Kuan mounted a lawsuit against the Seah family, alleging that the latter monopolised Kongsi affairs.

Lim Nee Soon was also a close friend of Dr Sun Yat Sen.

teochee_teochew

Special guests MP Mr Teo Ser Luck and Deputy Prime Minister Mr Teo Chee Hean at the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan Anniversary Dinner.

8. When Lim Nee Soon was eight years old, he was left in the care of his maternal grandfather, Teo Lee.

teolee_tch

“Teo Lee is the great-great-grandfather of Teo Chee Hean, DPM of Singapore.” Source: Teo Lee Family

Teo Lee’s descendant is Teo Chee Hean, who is the cousin of Ivy Lim Seok Cheng. Ivy Lim’s spouse is Kwa Soon Chuan, the brother of Kwa Geok Choo (Mrs. LKY / “The Dragon Lady“).

+ + +

2) EXCERPTS ON OPIUM TRADE

Some excerpts on the history of opium trade in the region.

a) Over time, Tan [Seng Poh] rose through the ranks of Singaporean Chinese society to become a Justice of the Peace, an Honorary Magistrate, a Municipal Councillor as well as a wealthy opium farmer.

After 1870, syndicates of Straits Chinese controlling the lucrative opium farms extended their involvement in the trade beyond Singapore to Bangkok, Saigon, and Shanghai.

Source: Asia Research Institute — Transcultural Diaspora: The Straits Chinese in Singapore, 1819-1918 (PDF Download)

+ + +

b) One Chinese witness (Mr. Koh Seang Tat) says that he has never known of heard of an opium consumer breaking himself of the habit, and this view is supported by one medical man.
(Appendix 151)

Opium is commonly smoked by the Chinese in this colony, especially by the lower classes, artisans, and coolies.
(Appendix 165)

singapore_opium

Singapore, view inside opium den, 1941. Photographer: Harrison Forman.

Opium consumption is considered as a great vice by our Chinese. The habit of opium consumption in many cases reduces the habitués to extreme poverty and eventually to a stealthy and dishonest life.
— Chan-U-Pai, Director of the Po Leung Kuk, Hong Kong (Apendix 204)

Source: First Report of the Royal Commission on Opium, 1894

+ + +

c) Coolies were given to opium inhaling to relieve their tired bodies of its soreness and to gambling in an attempt to escape from their misery. The whites and wealthy Chinese employed the coolies mainly because of their willingness to work hard for little money.

Source: Blog to Express

+ + +

d) “. . .that most debasing and pernicious drug, opium, in combination with the Chinese secret societies of which spring many of those daring outrages and robberies that disgrace our settlements.”  (Pg-449)

In 1910 in Singapore, the development from opium farming to Opiumregie, like elsewhere, was completed by the opening of a modern opium factory. Once the mechanization of opium production and distribution was a fact, mass addiction could be realized. (Pg-453)

It is well described by Trocki:

“Most important was the expansion of the global market communicated to Singapore through the major trades: opium, capital, and manufactures from India and the West. In addition to redirecting the commodity flows to the West, the shift created a vast demographic eruption. It was as if the current of wealth flowing out of China began to pull with it the Chinese peoples themselves. Singapore came into being as a result of these global forces.”

Opium played in this global shift the most crucial role. Singapore’s opium scene in the 19th-century is, therefore, much more important than only in a local or regional context.

Officially, nearly half of all revenues of the British was earned by opium. It cannot demonstrate how much private or individual British officials, military men or bankers earned. Indirectly, it also suggests how much a very few super-wealthy people (Chinese) pocketed as their share of the opium rents in this century.

Source: History of the Opium Problem: The Assault on the East, ca. 1600 – 1950 (BRILL)

+ + +

e) Chan Wing was a man of principle and did not invest in sinful businesses like opium dens, tax-farming and slave trading.

Source: Insider’s Kuala Lumpur (3rd Edn)

+ + +

f) In 1879, Banhap, together with Cheang Hong Lim (one of the trio of Singapore opium farmers who made up the “Great Syndicate”) launged a daring attempt to seize control of the entire Asian opium trade.

cheanghocklim

Cheang Hong Lim 章芳琳 (1841-1893). Source: RL

When Banhap and Cheang Hong Lim acquired the Hong Kong opium farm, it was not simply an attempt to extend their control over yet another colonial port. The Wo Hang and Yan Wo, the two major opium syndicates in Hong Kong, also controlled the coolie trade of Hong Kong. . .the two firms also sold prepared opium to Chinese immigrants. . .The goal of Banhap and Cheang was to take control of this trade in prepared opium which would have been worth about $3.5 to $4 million per year.

They were among the wealthiest men in Asia at the time and were linked to a vast network of kin, business associates, clansmen, and dependents.

Source: Connecting Seas and Connected Ocean Rims (BRILL)

+ + +

g) The Singapore opium farmer simply purchased his supplies on the open market in Singapore. He processed the opium into chandu and distributed it to local opium shops for retail consumption by the population of Chinese coolies.

As a group, it is clear that the farmers were among the most influential and “respectable” of Singapore’s Chinese. They were also economic leaders and were deeply involved in the papper and gambier economy of Singapore and the surrounding territories. These plantations were the major employers of the Chinese coolies who were the major consumers of opium. It is also probable [that] the farmers were intimately connected to the Chinese secret societies of Singapore.

Source: The Rise of Singapore’s Great Opium Syndicate, 1840-86 (Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Department of History, NUS)

3) ADDITIONAL INFO

1. This photo album has some Singapore opium photos (uploaded by Julia Di Lorenzo).

opium_album

2. This chart shows the intermarriages between Straits Chinese Banking Families in Singapore. Done by Roy Ngerng (originally posted on his blog, TheHeartTruths).

Wee Theam Seng (Mrs. LKY’s grandfather + senior OCBC banker on the right side of the opium image) is circled in this image.

banking_opium

3. This post takes a look at the close historical ties between the Singapore government and Burmese military junta.

Burmese Generals, Drug Lords, and the Singapore Government

burma_druglords
Standard

On the historical links between the Singapore government and “Burmese Generals / Drug Lords.”

1. LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS

Most of Burma’s 50 million people struggle to feed their families on less than $1 a day.

Regional analysts say most of that revenue and money earned on the black market goes straight to the military leaders and the elite that surrounds them.

Ian Holliday, a Burma expert at the University of Hong Kong, says the generals also spend their money in Singapore.

luxuryvillasingapore

Might one of these luxury villas belong to Senior General Than Shwe? (Image of Sentosa Cove)

“I know they’ve got some property investments. Than Shwe and his family have a luxury villa that they go [to]. I don’t know how much money they put in Singaporean bank accounts. I assume it’s quite a lot,” he said.

Source: VoA (2007)

2. BANKS and BILLIONS

a) Nine banks have been given provisional licences to operate in Myanmar, of which two are Singaporean — UOB and OCBC.

Source: Jakarta Post (2015)

ocbc

OCBC: World’s Strongest Bank (in 2012). Source: Bloomberg

b) In early September 2009, the NGO EarthRights International (ERI) revealed that the French and American oil companies Total and Chevron were using two Singapore-based banking corporations (DBS and OCBC) to finance Burma’s Yadana energy project.

This project might have generated huge dividends for the Burmese state and its military associates (around US$5 billion in one decade according to ERI’s report), as well as for Singapore. Singapore’s official bilateral trade with Burma hit US$1.86 billion during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Source: Soldiers and Diplomacy in Burma (NUS Press)

c) “[Burma’s] military elite are hiding billions of dollars of the people’s revenue in Singapore while the country needlessly suffers under the lowest social spending in Asia,” said ERI’s Matthew Smith, the report’s main author.

Source: The Independent

d) Jelson Garcia, Asia Program Manager with the Banking Information Center (BIC), said World Bank, ADB and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials informed him last year that Burma’s government held up to $11 billion in several Singaporean bank accounts.

Source: The Irrawaddy

3. DOUBLE STANDARDS and “BLOOD MONEY”

Stephen Law is the son of Burma’s notorious drug lord Lo Hsing Han, who, at one point, was sentenced to death in Burma for drug trafficking.

lohsinghan

Lo Hsing Han or Law Sit Han (1935 – 2013): Burmese drug trafficker and major business tycoon.

a) Lo Hsing Han’s Asia World (managed by son Stephen Law) and the Burmese junta are partners in Singapore’s luxury Traders Hotel. The hotel’s November 1996 opening ceremony was attended by the wanted guy, Lo Hsing Han himself.

According to a high-level US government official familiar with the situation, Law’s wife Cecilia Ng operates an underground banking system, and “is a contact for people in Burma to get their drug money into Singapore, because she has a connection to the government.”

Source: John Harding, SBS: Singapore Sling, and Covert Action Quarterly

b) “If the Singapore Government truly feels drug abuse is a scourge on society, it would not just want to catch and hang these small-time peddlers,” Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan said, pointing out the Singapore government’s hypocrisy.

cheesoonjuan

Chee Soon Juan, SDP

“You would want to go for the big fish and go to what the source is. Press the Government on what it’s doing in Burma to stop this production of opium and heroin.”

Source: Singapore’s Hand in Golden Triangle

c) Is it so difficult to prosecute a drug lord? There is a conspiracy of intellects and governments that feed the public with bullshit that corruptions are extremely difficult to prosecute and to prove.

moneytrail

Money Trail | Image from loans.org

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is easy to steal $1 to $2, but to embezzle millions you would leave trails of accountants, private bankers, large amount of bank accounts transactions, etc. Those are the easiest things to track down.

Source: Veritas

d) Remember, you are dealing with a country like Singapore where the brutal military junta leaders of Burma are not only given red carpet welcomes when they visit Singapore, while they brutalize and torture their citizens, orchids in Singapore were even named after them!

thein sein

Singapore Botanic Gardens held an “Orchid Naming Ceremony” for Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, a former general, in 2009

There is a lot of dirty money to be made with Burmese drug money connections. Burmese drug lords need lawyers too. Lee Kuan Yew does business with Burma. Many of them are drug lords.

Contracts for drug money transactions have to be drafted, banking agreements have to be entered into and complicated money laundering transactions have to be worked out.

Source: Singapore Dissident (2011)

e) “The Singapore government knows it’s having dinner with the devil, and sharing a very short spoon,” says former solicitor-general Francis Seow.

francis-seow

Francis Seow, former solicitor-general of SG

“And it is a terrible double standard. Drug moneys are being laundered apparently by the same drug lords who supply the heroin for which small-time drug dealers are hanged. We are reaping profits as Burma’s biggest investor, but we’re being paid with blood money.”

Source: The Nation

4. GIC, SINGTEL, and MEDICAL TRIPS to SINGAPORE

a) The close political, economic, and military relationship between the two countries facilitates the weaving of millions of narco-dollars into the legitimate world economy.

. . .The Burmese government has kept computers and communication technology away from students and others in opposition to the regime. Yet Singapore has made the best computer technology available to the ruling elite and their business partners [through Singapore Telecom (SingTel)].

Singaporean companies have also helped suppress dissent in Burma by supplying the military with arms to use against its own people.

Source: Covert Action Quarterly

b) A former US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Robert Gelbard, has said half of Singapore’s investment in Burma has been “tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han.”

singapore_hospital

Medical trips to SG. Image of SGH by Thomson Adsett.

Dissident groups say the trade-off for Tay Za’s government business contracts in Burma is to fund junta leaders’ medical trips to Singapore.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Singapore has received criticism for its large investment in the military dictatorship of Burma. In 1995, the government of then PM Goh Chok Tong pursued a diplomatic strategy of engaging Burma while securing investment deals for its Soverign Wealth Funds (SWFs), including the GIC’s investment in the Myanmar Fund (Financial Times 1995). The state used its SWFs as a diplomatic tool to open channels into Burma.

Source: Sovereign Wealth Funds (by Christopher Balding)

5. FORCED ORGAN HARVEST?

  • Reader Tip: Take note of the two dates in the paragraphs below.

1) Burma’s Prime Minister Soe Win is being treated at a hospital in Singapore, an official from the Burmese embassy in the city-state said. The official would not give details of Soe Win’s illness, saying only that it was a “serious health matter.”

Source: BBC (21 March 2007)

organ_harvest

2) As Sim Tee Hua lay on life support in a Singapore hospital, seven of his relatives knelt crying on the floor before the doctors, begging them not to remove his organs and give him a chance for a miracle recovery.

“The hospital staff were running as they wheeled him out of the back door of the room,” said Sim Chew Hiah, one of his sisters. “They were behaving like robbers.”

The harvesting surgeons had waited for 24 hours, but although his family still clung to hopes that he could recover, Singaporean law assumes all citizens except Muslims are willing organ donors unless they have explicitly opted out.

Source: Telegraph (2 March 2007)

6. LEE KUAN YEW on BURMESE LEADERS

leekuanyew

Lee Kuan Yew (Photo: AFP/Files/Roslan Rahman)

From an article on CNN:

This time, the WikiLeaks cable shows Minister Mentor [Lee Kuan Yew] describing the Myanmar (or Burma) leaders as “stupid” and “dense.” He was even quoted as saying that dealing with the regime is like “talking to dead people.”

Source: Mr. Brown / CNN (2010)

END NOTE:

As netizens say:

“This is what we call LEEgalised corruption.”

ADDITIONAL INFO:

This blog post takes a look at LKY’s family ties to opium trade.