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Political exile featured in To Singapore, With Love dies of old age in Thailand

Wong Soon Fong, a political exile featured in the banned documentary To Singapore, With Love, died of old age on Tuesday afternoon in Betong, Thailand.

Unable to consume food for the past few days, he had paid a visit to the hospital in the morning. An attending physician gave him an injection and advised him to stay for observation. Wong declined and returned to the village reception house. He was found dead at 3pm that afternoon, and his family has since been informed.

His body was sent to a monastery in Yala, Thailand. Burial rites will be performed there.

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Wong was one of 13 Barisan members elected into the 51-seat Legislative Assembly on 21 September 1963 after he won the Toa Payoh ward. But he never made it to the Legislative Assembly; he was subsequently accused of being a communist and in danger of being detained without trial under the Internal Security Act. This prompted him to flee Singapore along with another elected assemblyman, Chan Sun Wing. He spent 16 years as a fugitive before he joined the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) in Thailand.

After the peace accord was signed between Malaysia, the MCP and Thailand in 1989, Malaysians in MCP were given rights to take up citizenship in Malaysia. Singaporeans who in the MCP were not given the same offer; Singapore was not a signatory to the peace accord. Singaporeans who were with the MCP were not allowed to return to Singapore but were given the option by the Thai government to settle in Betong, with land and financial assistance provided.

The Singaporean authorities have insisted that former communists have to be detained and interviewed by the Internal Security Department, and are required to renounce communism before being allowed to re-enter Singapore.

Throughout the years Wong always maintained that he was involved in politics, first as a PAP member, city councillor and PAP legislative assemblyman before becoming a member of the Barisan Sosialis.

Mr Wong, in his interview with TOC a year ago, said, "I was a democratically elected assemblyman, and what the PAP did [to impose ISA] was wrong... I will not accept the terms given by the authorities because the conflict ended amicably between Malaysia, Thailand and MCP without anyone surrendering. If I were to accept the terms given by the government, I would be surrendering to them."

At the time of his death, Wong had not been back in Singapore for over five decades.