By Tiffany Gwee
Just last week, The Straits Times published an article about Singaporean Mr. Soh Chin Chai’s bogus marriage to Vietnamese national Dang Thi Hoang that happened in March last year. Dang was “eager to secure a job” here in February last year and was told she could “get married to a Singaporean man”.
Soh was told that he would earn $2,700 as part of the deal (of marriage) and $400 for each successful visit pass. The couple was caught 6 months after their marriage in March – with Soh jailed for six months and Dang for eight.
It may just seem like a usual news report about a sham marriage but the difference here is that Soh had already served his sentence and was released on 8 March this year.
Clarification of article by his boss
Jabez Tan, founder of Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh, was enraged when he saw that the article had appeared in the news again even though Soh had already finished his sentence. In his Facebook post, Tan wanted to “clarify” the situation in the article reported last week.
Soh was already working with him when he was called to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to be investigated about his marriage last September and was sentenced to 6 months in prison in November. “Without any hesitation, Chin Chai admitted his wrongdoing and already paid the price for it (6 months imprisonment).”
He added that Soh has returned to work and is now “holding an important position as an assistant manager” at the store’s MacPherson outlet.
Turning over a new leaf
According to Soh’s boss, Soh is now also actively involved in “community service” such as “Bread of Love” where he distributes bread to the needy elderly as part of his church’s initiative.
Tan also inserted a link that told of Soh’s life story and how he has changed from a “rebellious man living a life of crime and vice” to a “responsible man living a purposeful and meaningful life with a stable job and income”.
“Discouraged” and “stressed”
After the publishing of the article, Soh had “received a lot of calls and messages to ask about what was written”.
“He is discouraged and stressed and (had run) out of words to explain to many people at the same time.”
TOC spoke to Soh to ask about how the story has affected his life. He said that he did not understand why people were looking at him everywhere he went till his boss and church members informed him of the article published on ST.
He understood how his story is a case study for crimes which he was sentenced under, but he is disappointed that ST had to publish his face along with the report despite serving his sentence in full.
His sister whom he had recently reconciled with, had questions from her colleagues about his sentencing. Till today, he is worried about people asking his two children about their father at school.
“What will they feel about their father?”
Support for Soh
Tan made it very clear that he is in full support of Soh. He hopes to inform Straits Times of the “full story” so the public will be “well-informed” and will be “encouraged about the new journey Chin Chai is walking on”.
It was obvious in the comments that many others are supporting and encouraging Soh as well. Many asked for people to “give him an opportunity” and thanked Tan for employing him. They were also disappointed with the Straits Times and how they were trying to “dig up some old (news) and spin new life into it”.
Giving a second chance
Towards the end of the post, Tan expressed pride for his workmate and the idea of giving criminals a second chance in life.
“Every saint has a past and every criminal has a future. The past is past, we won’t let it hold us bondage. What is most important is today when we dare to step up and make a change in life for the better.”
“I am so proud of Chin Chai. Cheers.”
Thankful for support
Soh himself thanked everyone for the support – “While I was in prison I received lots and lots of letters and cards from my church brothers and sisters, now this incident my phone and fb consistently receiving (encouraging) words from you all. God is good! I will stay strong and all glory to God. Thank you everyone and God bless you all.”
Soh says that he is “trying to live a new life for everyone who have been supportive of him and for the sake of his two children”.
He also mentioned that he feels this is “yet another test that has been given to him in life”.
“I will continue to stay strong as I have promised myself not to let anyone down when I saw my boss and church members waiting outside for me outside of the prison two months ago.”