Mr Koh Eng Khoon, chairman of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods who has been widely known in Singapore over the past few months of campaigning for the survival of the Sungei Road Second-hand Market, is being investigated by the police under the suspicion that he sent a threatening letter to Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Midnight visit and ransacking of flat
According to Mr Koh, the police knocked on his door around midnight on 27 April (Thursday) to look for him. The police were in plainclothes and claimed to be from the Central Police Division
Initially speaking at the door as they presented no arrest or search warrant, the police officers asked if he sent a threatening letter to the DPM. He denied any knowledge of the matter
When Mr Koh asked to clarify on the letter, the police officers declined to reveal the content of the letter. But only noted that there were pieces of hell money sent along with the letter and that his name was on the letter.
As the police officers noted to Mr Koh that the letter had no signature, he argued that all letters that have been sent by him to the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and other agencies had signatures on them.
As Mr Koh does not understand English, the Malay inspector spoke through the Chinese police officer to ask questions. Throughout the questioning, Mr Koh was continually asked if he understood what offence has he committed by sending the letter to the DPM.
The police officers also asked Mr Koh to stand and pose at his door for them to take a photo of him, and asked to take a look at his mobile phone. When the police officers were handed his phone, they looked through all the messages and asked about the video which he gave a speech about the treatment of vendors at the Sungei Road Market. The police asked who helped to take the video for him which he answered truthfully that it was taken by Terry Xu (the writer of this article), The Online Citizen (TOC) and handed over the contact number of the videographer.
The police then proceeded told Mr Koh that his phone will be confiscated by the police for the purpose of investigation and was handed a police receipt for the phone. (attached at end of report)
After the questioning, the Chinese officer told Mr Koh that his superior would like to enter the house, to which Mr Koh approved. Mr Koh said, “I have nothing to be afraid of, since I did not do anything wrong.”
Mr Koh then had his one-room flat in Circuit Road ransacked by the police, going through his cupboards, paper documents and etc. Photos of his flat were also taken by the police.
The police officers specially asked for a copy of the letter written to the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2015/16 from Mr Koh, but he was unable to provide as the letter was kept with the association’s secretary. According to Mr Koh, he handed the number of the secretary to the officers and asked them to contact him if they really want the letter.
According to Mr Koh, the police officers eventually left his house at around 1 plus on Friday morning (28 April).
Threatening letter to Prime Minister and other MPs
According to TODAY Online, it also received a copy of the letter. But it stated that the letter was sent to the Prime Minister and others, not just DPM Tharman. It also published the photo of the letter along with the accompanying hell notes.
The newspaper noted that the letter was handwritten and addressed to “PM Lee Hsien Loong and the other MPs” expressing anger that the Sungei Road flea market will not be relocated.
TODAY also reported that the letter wrote, “Don’t forget the 200 people and supporters. We only ask for this place. That’s not much,” and it was signed off by “Koh Eng Khoon (Friend)”.
Spokesperson for Sungei Road Second-hand Market
Mr Koh has been actively involved in the campaigning for the preservation of the Sungei Road Market and can be deemed as the spokesperson for the 80-year-old street market. Mr Koh has been the chairman of the association he heads since its creation in 2014 for the purpose of communicating with the government.
The government has earlier stated that the Sungei Road Market will be closed on 11 July this year and since the announcement, both vendors and members of the public have been trying to convince the government to allow the market to continue on by allowing the vendors to operate in an alternative location.
Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli has stated in the Parliament that there is no intention to allow the market to be operated in an alternative location and the vendors are expected to fade into history just as how the street hawkers have transitioned into the hawker centres.
Police declined to file police report for impersonation
After the midnight visit by the plainclothes officers, Mr Koh sought to file a police report on the malicious impersonation using his name to send a letter to the DPM. However, the police officer whom he spoke to, declined to file a case for him. Mr Koh claims that the officer declined to file a report for him because there has already been a case opened for the incident.
“But the report that I want to file is about the impersonation of me” said Mr Koh on the matter, and notes that the police is treating him as the prime suspect in the case of sending the letter to DPM. It was only under his insistence that another senior officer at the police station instructed the attending police officer to record his statement. However, there was no case number given to Mr Koh or a duplicate copy of the statement taken.
Mr Koh will be seeking to retrieve his phone from the police this coming week as many of his friends are unaware of the incident and unable to contact him as a result.
He wants to resolve the investigation as soon as possible as he is trying his best to campaign and petition the government to provide an acceptable solution for the vendors at Sungei Road Second-hand Market, in its remaining two months.
In response to media queries, Singapore Police Force said, “The police confirm that reports have been lodged. We are unable to comment further as investigations are ongoing,”
TOC has also sent the following queries to the SPF on Friday morning:
1) Why did the police see the need to visit Mr Koh’s house at 12am in the middle of the night?
2) Why was there a need to photo Mr Koh when he already showed the police his ID?
3) Why was there a need to confiscate Mr Koh’s phone, given that the case at hand is a letter sent to DPM and the police cannot prove that Mr Koh is the person who sent the letter.
TOC will update the article with the police’s reply, should they respond.
Police receipt of Mr Koh’s handphone which indicates the time and place where the phone was confiscated