The Online Citizen

Dr Ang Swee Chai the ‘Euro Communist’?

August 14
13:23 2011

by: Teo Soh Lung/

Photo: Camden New Journal

Dr Ang Swee Chai, a prominent surgeon and author of From Beirut to Jerusalem has now written about her arrest and detention without trial under the ISA in 1977. She was one of at least 28 people, mostly professionals, who were arrested and labelled as Euro Communists by the PAP government.

Dr Ang was arrested on 15 March 1977, one month after Tan Jing Quee was arrested.  At the time of her arrest, her husband of two weeks, Francis Khoo, a lawyer had escaped to London after many of their friends were arrested and imprisoned. Both she and her husband now live as exiles in London. The documents and photographs seized have not been returned to them.

“On the morning of my arrest, I was operating, when one of my colleagues came to tell me that a number of plain clothes policemen were looking for me. I told him that I got to finish operating on my patient before I could see them. They waited outside the operating theatre, maybe about 10 of them altogether, since we left in 2 cars. One of them wanted to hand-cuff me, but I told them I was not going to run away, and could not anyway. Furthermore they should not lead me with hand cuffs through the crowded hospital corridors for everyone to see, since some of the people sitting along the corridor were my patients.

“They took me first to our own flat. We were married 2 weeks prior to this and had just moved into this flat.  They started going through all our things, taking a whole lot of documents and books away, and helped themselves to our wedding photos. Then they went to Francis’ mother’s house and took away Francis’s things. Next they went to my parents’s house to search. It was in the late afternoon when I was finally taken to Whitley Detention Centre. I was made to change into canvas/linen prisoner’s clothes, and all my own clothes –  including my bra and watch were taken away. I was thumb-printed and had photographs taken with my prison number which was 116.  From there I was taken straight to interrogation.  It was hard to know how long I was interrogated, since there was no clock, and my own watch was taken away. But since there was about 9-12 change of shifts I must have been questioned initially for at least 72 hours. The interrogation was conducted by about 6 male officers with one female officer watching in each shift.

“There was initial banging of tables and threat that they would throw the key away for ever, and no one can get me out. They accused me of being a communist and a terrorist! The room was cold and I was shivering. I was then given strong tea with sugar and no milk, which coupled with all the threats sent my heart rate thumping.

“After what I thought must be the first 72 hours of continuous interrogation, I was taken to a small cell, no mattress, and the door shut. Lights were on. There was a small window in the door which was shut. As I sat on the cement floor, a Gurkha brought me rice wrapped in brown paper. There was one tiny fish, and I just could not eat anything. I was then taken to the toilet, but not allowed to close the door. By this time I was well and truly constipated. I just could not use the toilet with Gurkha soldiers standing guard at an open door. After that I was taken to an enclosed field and told to exercise for about 10 minutes.

“Then I was taken back for interrogation by yet a new set of officers. I was given lots of blank paper and questioned about Francis. I must have spent a couple of days being questioned, and writing and re-writing pages on Francis – most of what I wrote I remember was trivial initially.  But later it was clear that what they were after was for me to implicate Francis as a terrorist. This I refused to do, as I know Francis was not. Then they put it to me that Francis had been lying and hiding things from me. They told me they had evidence to support their allegations, but could not show me.

“After about another 48 hours I was taken back to my cell. This time I was given fried Hor Fun by my case officer, who told me that my boss, Mr J E Choo, the Head of Outram Road General Hospital had rung the head of the ISD asking what they wanted with me. Apparently he had recently operated on the head of the ISD. The late Mr J E Choo was Senior State Surgeon and extremely well respected. This phone call I suspect had improved my deal.

“I was also given a mattress on the floor of my cell this time and told I was to sleep for two hours.  Once the door shut I burst into tears, but then stopped since I thought I could be watched, and it was stupid to cry. After this time when I was again taken out for interrogation, the officers seemed  friendly and polite, and advised  me that in order to save my marriage I should go to Europe  and persuade Francis to come back. They emphasized that apart from the shock of being suddenly picked up, I was treated well, and since I was able to go through with this, I should challenge Francis to go through this as well. I think they call it “coming clean”.  Of the pages and pages I have written, I signed some of them. The officers explained that I was a reasonable middle class professional (division one officer) and they could talk to me without resorting to using force, and it was easy to work with me. But with labourers and workers they usually had to beat them up to get co-operation. They gave me the impression that I was sensible, co-operative, not a terrorist but misled by my husband, and they wanted to help Francis correct his “deviant” ways before he get into very deep waters! They also told me not to worry about the hospital since it was also part of the civil service as the ISD was, and they had applied for me to have a fortnight’s leave, so nobody would query where I went, and as few people should know that I have been “picked up” by the ISD as possible. I somehow never challenged them about my doctor colleagues, who saw me being taken away in broad daylight from the hospital.

“When I was released a week later, it was surreal to see the metal gates of the detention centre closed behind me and getting into a taxi to go home! I knew that Francis had escaped to either Holland or London, and I had promised the ISD that I would go to Europe to talk to him. Despite all their assurances, I had made up my mind that I would not want Francis to come back to be interrogated, as I suspected he would be badly treated.  The ISD officers laughed when I became defensive at one point and told me that I should not worry since they would not beat me up -  Francis would see the bruises and make an issue of them, they told me.

“So this is my brief account of an encounter with ISD. Apart from getting some information about  Francis, this arbitrary detention was not only unpleasant for me personally but a criminal waste of police resources and taxpayers’ money. Through this incident, I realised that despite being a division one civil servant, I could be put behind bars without charge, with no access to  the outside world and could have disappeared with no one knowing. I was fortunate to be arrested in the hospital during working hours, and my colleagues who saw the arrest had told Mr Choo, my boss and he chose to intervene. If I was arrested in the middle of the night from my home, and there were no witnesses, then I could have been locked up forever as the ISD threatened. Even now I frequently ask myself, what kind of society is this who treat her citizens in this way.”

Dr Ang Swee Chai is the author of ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem’

The title of this article ‘Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong should apologise to Dr Ang Swee Chai’ was changed to better reflect the content of the article on 14 Aug 2011 at 4.30pm.


  • nobody

    the question is why should Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong apologise?

  • Raymond Chong Li Hao

    Yes it sounds scary, but unless we know the state secrets of why they were taken these accounts are just your word against my word

    I understand that at that time communism was a very real threat as Russia faced the cold war. I guess erring on the side of caution the then prime minister was paranoid having lived through uncertain times

    I pray and hope there will be answers once mm lee goes

  • 2nd Class Citizen

    @ nobody

    As head of state, the deliberate inhumane treatment that Dr Ang has to go through, do you not think an apology is in order from him?

  • ah Kong 2 cents

    Dr Ang should charge the government in court, fight the case in court and not asking the government to apologize. The government should use all the evidence against her and throw her in jail for the rest of her life, story end… next please.

  • Steve Goh

    The then PM LKY should shed light on subject matter for the benefit of those who lived during that period.

  • Stevenkhorfather

    ho wants to have a taste of my “Kunckle Buster “?

  • David

    And msm called LKY a “few good men” and I wonder how to justify that. Not that Singaporeans are happy now, in fact it is getting worse under his son Leadership. The Lee family should apologise to all Singaporeans on Nationl Day.


    This story tells of a country, a man, and his family. Like father, like son.

    Great of this woman to protect this man. Great of a man who protected this woman.

  • doppelganger

    There is a curse left behind after the British gave up their colonies and that is the ISA. The governments of every previous British colony havs used the ISA to varying extent to stay in power. Propelling LKY,GCT,LHL,TT….N are demons still very much active, well fed and arrogant. I recently had a brush with a character from the ISD over some matters which is far removed from politics and criminality. I was supposed to call him whenever his men detains me. On one occasion I had to call him and he arrogantly denied our arrangement saying that he was not my talisman. That was as near as I got to the rancid smell of the ISD. It sensitize me to what is behind the scenes in the minds of these baby kissing politicians. They keep a private police force using tax payers money to terrorize the citizenry. Dr Ang Swee Chai has met the real face of the Regime. And you my fellow citizen, don’t be smug. You too may fall into their hands very easily. The ISD are not flying saucers, urban myths cooked up by uncles to keep their nephews in line. I note that the ISD is now commandeered by elite Law firms to assist them to soften their targets to ensure victory in the Courts. That was how the ISD came for me. With the commercialization of ISD functions, the chances of any citzen being harassed by the ISD is vastly increased. The ISD is very busy now. That’s why they lost Mas Selamat. They are now focussed on the citizenry- believe it or not!

    A Government that relies on the ISD to stay in Power is not the benign face we see on TV.

  • nobody

    It is not Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong should apologise, it is the people (during that time) should have a voice.
    - We have assumed and presumed :)

  • popcorn

    “What kind of society is this who treat her citizens in this way.”
    An excellent example of a dictator kind of society, one with absolute power, like what we see and read about in China and North Korea.
    During those days, the Govt nabbed people, interrogated for days under freezing air-con rooms, with some forced to confess to crimes absurdly fabricated under severe beatings,then thrown into prison under the ISA Regulations, without trials.
    Now, under the watchful eyes of foreign Human Rights Organisations, dissenters are sued in the Courts, charged with defamation, and made bankrupt by huge sums of compensation demanded by the plaintiffs, mostly high level Govt Ministers.
    This is the kind of society Singaporeans are living in. Govt could kill without using a gun at all. Now it’s called “killing you softly.”

  • popcorn

    Now it’s called “killing you softly” through the Legal System, which is entirely under their control. With not a single bullet shot.

  • isd


  • Devagi

    It is best Dr Ang pursued the allegations in Singapore High Court and let Singaporeans have a chance to hear her testimony and the response of ISD; otherwise it is only a one-sided story. Let the truth prevail and the evil be surfaced for all to see!

  • Hp

    Thk you Dr. Ang for the sad insight to ISD. In fact it should b LKY who should apologize not LHL. Well Dr Ang was a prisoner of conscience, like many other during that time. Very sad hope those wrongly imprisoned and their family members can FORGIVE the people in ISD and their leaders who constantly lived in fear, cause they have sinned so much, may GOD forgive them.

  • doppelganger

    How come the biography of LKY does not touch on his role in the implementation of the ISA?

    Has the ISA any paragraphs in President Nathan’s biography?

    If these gentlemen are indeed the prime movers of the ISA they should be revealed.

    The ISA is the point where their ultimate place in the history of atrocity lie.

  • Sad story

    It is a sad story happened to a pair of lover. As a woman under the hands of mafia LKY, she showed her strength of a woman to protect her innocent husband. I believe many such stories remain untold and I wonder whether NLB has tried to delete them in the name of computer “breakdown”.

    Let’s hope more people can step up like Dr Ang, to tell their story and have them archived as an important aspect of Singapore story instead of PAP one-sided feel-good story.

  • JeffGoh

    I will always remember Dr Ang, a bone specialist who forego earning millions of dollars; if we go by Susan Lim’s standard; who not only sacrificed her millions but risked her life to tend to those who needed her most in Beirut

  • JR

    Truly sad that some of our best BRAINS were hounded and threatened to the extend of leaving and seeking refuge elsewhere.

    Why???? just because some are afraid of even their own shadow.

  • Shawnn

    This is what we called POWER GREEDY by LKY wanted all his enemies to be lock up behind the Bar. If some of us heard the release of classified documents from the British Government how LKY plot to bring all his partners who fought the FREEDOM for Singapore under ISD. This is one of these events. I believe all these people arrested were not communist but PRO Democracy whereas our leader was pro communist dictator who wanted Singapore all to himself to make RICH, POWERFUL and HIS OWN. Now that 39.9% Singaporean learning and growing to feel the pitch PAP bring in to cover the margin so that they will in POWER rest of their days…

  • Teo Soh Lung

    TOC – If you use “Dr Ang Swee Chai the ‘Euro Communist’” as your title, you should add a question mark after “Euro Communist” and delete my name from your article with my permission. The term “Euro Communist” was coined by the PAP. I didn’t understand the term in 1977 and I don’t understand the term today.

    The reason why I call upon the Prime Minister to apologise to Dr Ang is because he represents the PAP government. He is answerable for all the misdeeds of his government, past and present.

  • theonlinecitizen

    Thanks for the clarification Ms Teo. The title has been edited as requested with ‘?’. But we have to credit the article to you as it was sent to us for consideration of publication. The decision to change the title was an editorial one, because the original title was not substantiated in the article.


  • bobby

    What typeof society?: Dictatorship under th guise of Democracy…closer to Hitlerism than Democracy.

  • Grammar please

    @nobody – Your English is poor.

    What are you trying to say with this sentence of yours, “It is not Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong should apologise, it is the people (during that time) should have a voice.”

    What? Are you saying that people of that time should apologise?

    Please spruce up your English otherwise you won’t be understood.

    As to why Pinky Lee should apologise, Ms Teo explains: “The reason why I call upon the Prime Minister to apologise to Dr Ang is because he represents the PAP government. He is answerable for all the misdeeds of his government, past and present.”

  • Robert Teh

    Isn’t it all too clear that Dr. Ang has become yet another victim of autocratic rule, the greatest cause of instability of any society.

    She was detained in a very high-handed manner without a shred of evidence to show that she was a violent partner or member of the Russian/China brand of communism.

    If a government is to use suspicion of association is the law being used by the autocrats to detain people, they themselves have to answer why during the period, they have visited communist leaders in China and have dealing with Myanmar’s drug-trafficking regime as reported by US government.

    PM Lee should humble himself and reach out to make relevant apologies to Dr. Ang for closure of a mistake made in her unwarranted detention.

  • leetahsar

    the era of the old man is already passe. he’s waiting for time only. if those “political victims” seriously feel injustice, perhaps they should file a civil suit collectively against the gov and make rational claims for their past sufferings.
    it’s 2011 now. if they really wanna see justice prevails; justice shall prevail for them.
    if not, it would be prudent to move on.(hate to say this but what else could one do?)

  • Patriot

    LKY is a hypocrite. When seeking to oust the British, he shouted hard and long against the ISA, censorship and all manner of heavy-handedness. Guess what happened after he took power. His stand during colonial days is well-documented, although one generally does not find it in local history books. It is obvious why. In this snese, he is eve more despicable than open dictatorships – at least they do not pretend otherwise.

    As for an apology which ignorant “nobody” does not understand … governments come out all the time to acknowledge past misdeeds and to try to rectify where possible: Clinton apologising for treatment of Japanese-Americans; Rudd for the treatment of child immigrants to Oz … they are legally and morally liable for the actions of past governments; at the risk of some generalisation, this is a rule of public international law

    Not knowing is one thing; knowingly ignoring a misdeed makes you guilty by association to at least some degree.

  • splendide mendax

    A series of declassified top secret documents from British Government.


    There should be truth in it otherwise they would have already being sued for defamation till their pants drop, which is the usual practice.

  • Emeritus di

    2 reasons why Pinkie should apologise – he is the pm, and Ah Fart is his father. If they are not true then Pinkie should just keep his trap shut!

  • Peter Sellers

    Dear Ms Teo Soh Lung,

    Are you at liberty to disclose the full list of those detained under Operation Spectrum or do some of them wish to keep their names out of the public eye?

    Thank you

  • teo soh lung

    Peter Sellers – The names of those detained in Op Spectrum can be found in the online nlb newspaper archive. I don’t know if anyone wants to keep his name secret. I doubt.

  • communalist

    The PAP should do the right thing. Look East, see how the Japs do it. They apologise for every mistake done by their government, even though the events were commited many years ago. LKY, the simian despot, must do the right thing. Follow his own urgings. Look East,and apologise.

  • DarrenTheSingaporean

    @Communalist – Clearly you didn’t do too well in your history exams. See how the japanese apologise for their mistakes? You must be kidding.

    Probably should have used Germany as an example.

  • Dead Poet

    People can give themselves great titles, founding father, mentor & architect etc. To me I have only one title for a man who was responsible for all this..bloody coward

  • gu

    He is just a…sonofabitch.

  • Scott Aron John Reynolds

    Miss. Swee Chai Ang An AMAZING Person & NHS Consultant Orthopeadic Trauma Hand & Upper-Limb Surgeon At The Royal London NHS Hospital :)

    She Knows About: Mid Carpal Instability (MCI)/Palmar Midcarpal Instability (PMCI) & Reflex Sympathetic DystrophyComplex Regional Pain Syndrome 1&2 (RSD/CRPS 1&2) & Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) – Disability & Chronic Pain Suffers.

    She Was On BBC24-News BBC HardTalk On: 16-08-2011 In The Early Hours & She Runs A Great Charity :)

  • doppelganger

    So where do we go from here? Since you have not met the ISD yet, forget it. Let sleeping dogs lie.

  • Robert Teh

    There are enough laws to take care of threats to security and subversion.

    When it comes to serious security threats like Terrorism, there is already a recognition that there should be process of justice. Compassions were granted to certain perceived terrorists without resort to presumptuous laws that can be abused like in Ismail’s case due to overzealousness on the part of enforcement agency. ISA may become a tool for politicians and their connected elite law firms to conveniently liaise with enforcing agencies working with them for revenge against ordinary citizens on mere suspicion without concrete evidence of guilt.

    Despite all the requests for evidence there is a lack of concrete evidence being produced for detention of Marxist conspirators, Chia Thye Poh or Dr. Ang Swee Cai.

    The Era of communism has long gone. If any harsh laws were passed as an exception because of emergency, let them be used only for limited period and removed as soon as emergency is over.

    Let’s put an end to such “guilty unless proven otherwise” law which is liable to abuse by power-crazed politicians to get even with political opponents.

  • RafflesRugby

    What can a meek lady do?

  • Alex Xia

    It is good that the truth of these arrest under ISA is now being now slowly revealed. Young Singaporeans should begin to question and ask whether this laws left by the British was abused by the Singapore government? I don’t have the answers but I know that the answers were soon emerge and recorded as part of our History of Independence

  • Richard

    I wonder how many of you have Googled Dr. Ang Swee Chai? Try

    All Singaporeans should be proud of her. As they should be ashamed of her treatment by the PAP.

    It is time Singapore recognised and honoured one of her bravest and most competent daughters.

  • doppelganger

    In our corner of the globe,an island so small as if secreted as a crinkle of the continents after the tectonic forces have been spent, a violence against humanity of surprising proportions have been enacted by one man, LKY. Like warriors in a Homeric Greek assembly of war, the ex detainees struggle with their weight of years to present their experiences at the hands of LKY’s pit-bulls. Most voices are already stifled by the ravages of time and memory and death. Shall we as a society just listen, shake our heads and chant the mantra of our castrated cohorts ,” Lets move on!”

  • doppelganger

    The time has come to bring to books the prime movers of the ISA to destroy political opponents. We should compile a complete list of all those citizens who have been incarcerated without trial for decades by the PAP. We should also list all those who were charged under phony defamation and bankrupted by corrupt judges bending over backwards for their political masters. We have to bring our complaints to the UN Human Rights Council, now when the majority of the prime movers of the ISA are still alive. It does not seem fine when some of these prime movers of the ISD have written biographies of themselves which make no reference at all to their use of the ISA to suppress dissent and opposition political persons. Give another 10 years and you will find that the ISD episodes will be classed as myths because of the great propaganda machines the PAP have put in place and in their full control. And those PAP members who wielded the ISD on their hapless victims so as to remain in power and suckle at the honeypots of the country will laugh their way to their graves. Singaporeans of this generation are in place and in time to seek redress for the shameful acts of the PAP.

  • knuckle duster

    Euro Communist? What is that?

  • http://- singkoosing

    Francis Khoo passed away in England this week.
    Francis Khoo has lived in exile for 35 years..away from his beloved Singapore.
    Today he is going to be cremated in the UK.
    His wife is hopeful to bring his ashes home to Singapore.