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Tight security for Singapore IMF-World Bank meet

Written by: Staff

Singapore, Aug 30: When the annual International Monetary Fund-World Bank conference starts next month in Singapore, the city-state will look like it's preparing for a siege.

Singapore is one of the safest places in Asia and public protests are rare, any public gathering of more than four people requires a police permit and a person convicted of unlawful assembly can be fined up to 635 dollar.

But with 16,000 delegates, including the world's financial elite of central bankers and finance ministers, expected at the September meetings, the city is taking no risks.

Helicopters will hover above the convention centre where the conference is taking place to watch for any illegal gatherings, and more than 10,000 police officers and soldiers will provide around-the-clock security across the island.

Police will carry out random checks on individuals' belongings and coastguards plan to step up their patrols and inspect more vessels entering Singapore waters.

The elaborate precautions highlight fears of a terrorist attack or the kind of violent protests that have marred previous summits.

''The extensive security measures are absolutely necessary and reasonable in light of the prevailing environment marked by the threat of terrorism,'' Aubeck Kam, director of operations for the Singapore Police Force, told a news conference.

''We have not received any specific intelligence on terrorist attacks but our philosophy is to maintain a high level of vigilance at all times.'' Singapore, a staunch US ally and a major base for Western business, sees itself as a prime terrorism target in Southeast Asia after foiling plots in 2001 by the Jemaah Islamiah group to attack various Western targets, including the US embassy and a subway station used by off-duty US military personnel.

Jemaah Islamiah is a Southeast Asian militant group believed to have close ties with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.

Anti-globalisation activists usually gather at similar summits, but Kam said the police will make no exceptions to its ban on outdoor demonstrations and processions.

''We will not entertain any notion of allowing groups of people to gather and to form into larger and larger groups. We will intervene decisively and firmly,'' Kam said.

Although the World Bank has said outdoor protests should be allowed during the conference, the city-state has only conceded that it will allow indoor protests within a designated area in the lobby of the conference venue. The lobby area is smaller than a football field.

Kam added that immigration officials, who have been working with law enforcement agencies in other countries, have blacklisted some individuals and activist groups. They will be barred from entering the country, he said, although he refused to identify any groups or individuals.

''The list of trouble-makers are probably known to the police community worldwide. While I don't think all of them will make plans to come to Singapore, we will have our plans ready if they turn up at our borders,'' Kam said.


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