Recently, the story of Cheong Kah Pin, father of lifetime inmate Cheong Chun Yin, has again gained attention from netizens.
Uncle Cheong’s son, who is currently 40 years old, is currently serving a life sentence.
His 67-year-old Malaysian father, who resides in Johor Bahru, has been making twice-monthly trips to Singapore at 2 am to visit him.
In a recent interview with Singapore Chinese media 8world News, Uncle Cheong explained that he prefers to travel slowly to Singapore, as it is safer.
While it only takes half an hour to arrive at Changi prison, he is reconsidering his travelling options as he is getting old and cannot ride fast.
“I’m old, and when I ride the motorcycle, I’m afraid that I will knock into others or vice versa.”
Cheong said he usually arrives at his destination at about 3 am. He typically sits outside a petrol station until 8 am, which is when the prison allows visitors.
“I’ll have to wait despite the long hours,” he said, “I’m happy to get to see him.”
Ride to Singapore to visit his son twice a month, even if it’s raining
Uncle Cheong’s routine has been occurring twice a month over the decade.
Even if it’s raining, Uncle Cheong will still come to visit his son. He said that he would wear a raincoat on rainy days and ride his motorcycle slowly and carefully.
He has fallen two or three times, resulting in minor injuries. But Uncle Cheong said, “It’s okay, I will stand up and continue riding my motorcycle. ”
“Whatever he (Chun Yin) did, business or other matters, he believed others without doubts.”
“I miss him, and seeing him in person is all I wanted.”
In the first two years after learning that his son would be sentenced to death, Uncle Cheong fell into depression and sometimes even had episodes of confusion. He often rode his motorcycle aimlessly at night, searching for his son.
He, along with Cheong’s sisters and other relatives, had also appealed to the president of Singapore in 2011 at the Istana. They had collected thousands of signatures here and in Malaysia in support of the appeal petition.
Compared to his constant worries and frowns during that time, Uncle Cheong is much more cheerful now.
However, he can never truly laugh from the bottom of his heart unless he is reunited with his son.
Labour as vegetable farmer
Uncle Cheong works hard to make a living. He sleeps only two to three hours daily and ends his business at his vegetable stall at around 10 pm every night. Then, he goes to the farm to pick vegetables and returns home around midnight to pack them.
He takes a short nap and wakes up at 3 a.m. to prepare for the morning market.
Sometimes, he would unknowingly spend the whole night at the farm and sleep there before going straight to the morning market.
Uncle Cheong can earn RM100 to 200 (approx. 22.42 to 44.84 USD) a day if it doesn’t rain.
Uncle Cheong kindly declined netizens’ offer to help
His determination and his love for his son win praise on the internet.
Many netizens left messages to cheer on Uncle Cheong, some also expressing their hope to provide economic assistance to him, buy a new motorcycle, or permanently sponsor the maintenance of his motorcycle, arrange transportation for him back and forth, and help him sell vegetables online.
However, Uncle Cheong kindly declined the netizens’ help offer, explaining that his current motorcycle has been with him for over 20 years, and although it is old, he has grown accustomed to it and cannot bear to part with it.
As his entry and exit times to Singapore are not fixed, sometimes entering Singapore at 2 a.m. and leaving at 12 p.m. or 1 p.m., he does not want to inconvenience anyone and thus declined the offers of transportation arrangements.
There are also netizens who suggested that those who live in Johor Jaya can support Uncle Cheong by visiting his vegetable stall located in Pasar Awam Taman Johor Jaya.
“The stall operates during two periods: from 3 am to 10 am for the morning market and from 5 pm to 10 pm for the evening market.”
From death row to life imprisonment
On 16 June 2008, Cheong Chun Yin, then 24, arrived at Changi Airport from Myanmar.
The Singapore Police received information that Cheong had allegedly passed a bag containing heroin to a 54-year-old female, Pang Siew Fum.
The two were arrested separately later that day, and the bag was found to contain 2,726g of heroin.
Cheong claims he was told to bring in gold bars by “Lau De”, a person who was a regular customer at his father’s vegetable stall, and maintained that he did not know he was carrying drugs.
Cheong and Pang were convicted of drug trafficking after a joint High Court trial in 2010 and sentenced to death – the mandatory penalty at the time for trafficking more than 15g of the drug.
When first arrested in 2008, Cheong repeatedly asserted to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) that he had no idea the suitcase contained heroin.
He also gave the officers the telephone numbers of “Lau De”. However, he claims that they had done “absolutely nothing” to trace the whereabouts of this “Lau De”.
M Ravi: “another long drawn battle in the courts and extensive campaigning after Yong Vui Kong’s case”
Singapore’s foremost human rights lawyer, M Ravi, has been involved in the case since 2012. Besides advocating for Chun Yin’s rights, Mr Ravi has been supportive of Uncle Cheong, and still keeps in touch with him after the court lifted Chun Yin’s death row.
Mr Ravi once described the case as “another long-drawn battle in the courts and extensive campaigning after Yong Vui Kong’s case”.
This certification was made possible by amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act, which took effect on 1 January 2013, giving the court the discretion to sentence drug couriers facing the death penalty to life imprisonment instead, provided they cooperated with the authorities to disrupt drug-trafficking activities.
In September 2013, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) announced that Cheong had been certified as having substantively assisted the CNB in disrupting drug-trafficking activities outside Singapore, based on new information received.
On 20 April 2015, the High Court revoked Chun Yin’s death sentence as he was issued with a certificate of substantive assistance and re-sentenced him to a mandatory term of life imprisonment with effect from the date of his arrest.
However, he still had to receive the mandatory minimum of 15 strokes of the cane, as required for all drug couriers who were certified and had given substantive assistance.
Chun Yin was reportedly the fourth person on death row whose sentence was commuted under these circumstances.
Chun Yin could have his case reviewed by 2028
As for now, there may still be hope for the father and son to be reunited.
In Singapore, an offender sentenced to life imprisonment and served 20 years in jail may have their case reviewed for remission by the Minister of Home Affairs.
Chun Yin would have spent 20 years in prison by 2028, and his case could then be reviewed.