Singapore MP set on fire

Singapore January 11th, 2009

A singapore MP had been set on fire by a 70 year old man during a ceremony to hand out red packets to selected residents. Apparently, the man was unable to quality for the red packet and this incident is thought to be an act of vengeance. The MP, Mr Seng Han Thong, is an MP from the Yio Chu Kang constituency.

In July 2006, he was was punched in the face by a man in his 60s because the MP apparently refused to help him appeal for his taxi licence, which was suspended over an unrelated incident. Investigations are currently underway. More updates will follow.

This post was made sent from the Nokia E66.


Apparently, another man, Mr Aw Chui Seng, rushed to the rescue of the MP and got himself set ablaze too. Mr Seng was initially sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital while Mr Aw was sent to Singapore General Hospital. They are both apparently now in SGH’s Burns Unit.

This event, although unfortunate, may bear a few lessons – not only for the politicians, but for us to learn. Notwithstanding the psychological status of the attacker, this goes to show that in desperate times, desperate measures may be deemed necessary to the ones who are suffering. All senses of reasoning may not longer be in place and the person who is affected may simply just go berserk. This was apparently the case in the previous attack where the taxi driver thought that the MP wasn’t helping him to appeal for his revoked licence. In the end, the man made a public apology and eventually got back his vocational licence. He was however, removed from the company he was working for.

Hence, a lot of PR is really required – not to patronize the public, but really, to be honest and yet tactful. This is indeed a difficult task that even the best amongst out there may sometimes find it challenging.

What’s interesting about this attack (and the MP) is that he is attacked not just once, but twice, by 2 different persons. Is it mere coincidence, or does he really have some traits that sends the wrong signals to the wrong people? This will be highly speculative and I have no wish to be involved in it. Of course, we have so far looked at things from a single perspective – a third party’s.

Looking at what happened and the past incident, I guess the people would also have to understand that their MPs are not gods – they may not be able to do whatever they wish for. That said, why is it that the people are not thinking likewise – or for that matter, why aren’t all the people thinking that way? Some of the people that I have spoken to suggested that it could be because they think that the MPs are also getting (near) million dollar salaries (but in actual fact, they are not; thanks to reader Choong Yong for pointing that out) of the (near) million-dollar salary that they are getting – which seemed to imply a certain amount of authority that they hold and hence their ability to change things. Let us not forget that this is not always the case, especially when stringent red tape is in place. Others that I have spoken too suggested a sense of grudge – especially civil servants who do not seem to understand the plight of the people and indirectly boasted of their economic prowess in this time of difficulty. 

So, how will things change after this incident? Will there be an entire convoy of bodyguards surrounding the MPs every time they do their rounds? I don’t really think so, because as PM Lee has mentioned, the MPs must be accessible. To maintain this delicate thin line between fulfilling their people’s needs and safeguarding their own safety is probably an occupational hazard that they must bare. Perhaps this is why they may get their (near) million-dollar salary when they become ministers?

PS: The author wrote this at 2:00am after shifting her stuff to an entirely new environment. Some statements may not be completely correct while every effort has been taken to ensure the factuality of everything that’s written here.

Attacker set MP ablaze

By Esther Tan and Jermyn Chow

IN A vicious attack, a man said to be mentally unstable poured thinner down the back of Yio Chu Kang MP Seng Han Thong and set him alight at a grassroots event on Sunday morning.

Mr Seng, 59, ran onto the stage at the Yio Chu Kang Community Club, where he was attending a community event, trying desperately to beat out the flames on his back and head.

The chairman of the constitutency’s Chu Sheng Temple, Mr Aw Chui Seng, 69, rushed to his rescue but was also burned.

Others then shoved Mr Seng to the ground and took off their shirts to try to put the flames out.

Both men, now in Singapore General Hospital’s Burns Unit, have burns to about 10 to 15 per cent of their bodies. It is understood they may need skin grafting

Police have arrested a 70-year-old man, identified as Ong Kah Chua, for the attack. He is said to have been in and out of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) over the last few months and was described by neighbours as an ‘eccentric character’ who sometimes ran up and down the corridor outside his flat for no apparent reason.

Cabinet Ministers including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, and a number of MPs visited Mr Seng and Mr Aw in hospital on Sunday afternoon.

PM Lee said he told Mr Seng, who has a daughter in her 20s, to concentrate on getting well. Mr Lee said MPs from the Ang Mo Kio GRC will work it out among themselves to look after Mr Seng’s ward.

Speaking to the media after visiting Mr Seng, Mr Lee said while MPs should take precautions when they attend public events, they must remain accessible to their residents and be approachable.

‘Because this is an isolated case, the person is an IMH case, we will deal with it but life has to go on and our work has to go on,’ said PM Lee.

This is the second time in 2 1/2 years that Mr Seng has been attacked at a community event. In July 2006, at a meet-the-people session in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, he was punched by a 74-year-old Koo cabby who was upset with Mr Seng as he believed the MP was not helping him to get his revoked taxi licence reinstated.

Mr Koo was initially charged in court but the matter was settled after Mr Seng accepted his public apology.

Sunday’s attack happened at about 11.40am as Mr Seng was handing out bursaries and ‘hongbaos’ from the nearby Chu Sheng Temple to 200 needy people.

Temple employee Ang Lian Ee, 65, said the incident happened after the handouts were distributed and everyone had settled down to lunch in the club’s hall.

The man apparently came from behind, poured a bottle of thinner onto Mr Seng and set him on fire with a lighter.

Eyewitnesses said Ong fled to a neighbouring block but was caught by grassroots leaders and taken back to the community club.

A vegetable stall owner from a nearby temporary market, Mr Ngau Fook Thin, 54, said Mr Seng had a ‘burnt bald patch on his head. Vice-chairman of the People’s Action Party’s Yio Chu Kang branch, Mr George Tan, said Ong had gone to see Mr Seng at several meet-the-people sessions to complain about ‘evil spirits in his house’.

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 11th January 2009

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