KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — A seven-time ASEAN Para-swimming champ caught the attention of netizens again on social media when a TikTok video revealed that she is still selling tissues at Bukit Bintang, a buzzing shopping district in Kuala Lumpur.
In a video uploaded by TikToker and co-founder of KL Foodie Nicholas Lim Pinn Yang, Koh Lee Peng, the former swimming para-athlete, was selling tissues in her wheelchair.
In the video, Ms Koh is seen wearing the 2017 Asean Para Games T-shirt.
She replied to Mr Lim’s question that she represented Malaysia in swimming and her last competition was in 2017.
“Have you won any medals?” Mr Lim asked, and Ms Koh showed him the five medals she was wearing.
“I have no choice. I have to live. Things are getting expensive. I have to rely on myself. I have bills to pay monthly,” said Ms Koh in Hokkien.
Mr Lim later gave her RM100 out of sympathy, and Ms Koh replied: “Good luck to you” while she handed over a tissue and an Angpau to Mr Lim.
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Won 7 gold and three silver medal for Malaysia
49-year-old Ms Koh had cerebral palsy since childhood. She is one of the finest Paralympic athletes in Malaysia.
She represented Malaysia at the ASEAN Para Games from 2001 to 2005, and won a total of seven gold and three silver medals.
In 2005, Koh was dubbed by The Star as a “shining beacon” to her peers at the Cerebral Palsy (Spastic) Children’s Association of Penang.
In 2016, she was named Female Paralympian of the Year in her home state Penang.
Many Malaysian TikTokers had since commented on the video and expressing their concern about the fate of retired para-athletes who had won honours for their country.
They also tagged the newly minted Youth and sports minister Hannah Yeoh and deputy minister Adam Adli, calling them to reach out to Ms Koh and other former athletes who might be neglected by the government.
However, one of the netizens noted that some had already made offers to help but were declined by Ms Koh. Her story was reported by multiple media before.
Koh wants to be self-reliant
According to Bernama report one year ago, Ms Koh said that it was her choice to sell small items and tissue packs so that she could live independently without expecting help from others all the time.
She also asked the public to avoid making false or unfounded accusations without knowing the full story.
She said she used to work in factories and so on, “I no longer want to work with other people, what more if the people with disabilities (PwD) themselves do not understand the plight of another PwD. ”
“I want to start my own business and I am not ashamed of this honest way of earning a living, ” she told Bernama.
Ms Koh said some para-athletes might accept offers to become coaches, but she has declined the offers as she feels her time has passed.
” have not been cast aside to fend for me or have no home of my own, it’s just that I don’t want to disturb my siblings because they already have their own families.”
Bernama also reported that she earns about RM800 a month from selling tissues and receives RM300 monthly assistance from the National Athlete Welfare Foundation (YAKEB).
Former deputy youth and sports minister Steven Sim recalled that YAKEB once channelled a one-time cheque of RM5,000 towards Koh along with the RM300 monthly assistance.
The former deputy minister even bought Ms Koh’s entire stock for about RM17,000 (approximately S$ 5234). He also assisted her in setting up a Shopee account so she could sell her goods online.
DG of National Sports Council said Koh declined an entrepreneurial programme
In September last year, director-general of the National Sports Council Ahmad Shapawi Ismail clarified that Ms Koh had rejected efforts to help her and preferred to be self-reliant.
He added that NSC had previously made an offer to enter her in an entrepreneurial programme especially for former athletes, but declined by Ms Koh.
Ahmad Shapawi said the door of NSC was always open to Ms Koh.
Ms Koh sells handmade tissues bag on Shopee
The public can go to Ms Koh’s online shop on Shopee to support her business.
Besides selling small items, handmade tissue bags, delicate handcrafted earrings, and pendants, made by handicapped craftsmen, are also available at her virtual shop.
From the product review section, it is obvious that Ms Koh’s items were highly recommended by her customer: