malaysia

Activist in search of Pastor Koh recounts week-long detention in Thailand

File picture showing activist Peter Chong (right). — Picture courtesy of Twitter/ KBAB51File picture showing activist Peter Chong (right). — Picture courtesy of Twitter/ KBAB51KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Peter Chong had gone to Thailand in search of missing Pastor Raymond Koh, only to find himself taken captive for a week last April.

Testifying at the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (Suhakam) public inquiry into several missing persons today, the activist who has since returned to the country recounted his misadventure which began with a message on April 6 from a man he only knew as Amir who claimed to have information on Koh’s disappearance.

Chong related that he decided to journey to meet Amir in the southern Thai city of Hat Yai because he was convinced the man had credible information about Koh, after conversing for two to three hours over WhatsApp.

“I booked two tickets to Thailand because I had a homestay guest from Indonesia who was heading to Bangkok. When I arrived in Thailand, I was approached by a dark skin, thin Thai man who knew who I was and said his employers wanted to see me.

“He took me on his motorcycle and we went to a room on top of a restaurant. Before they opened the door, they put a hood on my head and sat me down. When I said I felt uncomfortable with the hood, they took it off.

“I saw they had surgical masks on,” he said during the seventh day of the Suhakam inquiry.

Chong said Amir introduced himself then, and the other man whose name he is now unsure of. It was either Syed or Shah, Chong said.

At that point in time, Chong said he was not worried about his own situation. Instead, Chong said he spoke with the two men for several hours regarding Koh’s disappearance.

Chong said he only realised he was being held against his will when Amir and the second man told him that they had to “keep him for a while longer”.

Chong said he had three square meals a day, and was fed a different variety of tom yam and Thai milk tea every single time when asked about his treatment by the Suhakam inquiry chairman Datuk Mah Weng Kwai.

The activist related that his captors had claimed they were from an Islamic youth group that was familiar with his activities.

“They knew about many of my activities. They thought I was organising the candle light vigils but I was only a participant. They didn’t believe, even until they released me, I don’t think they believed me. They wanted to stop the vigils,” Chong said.

“They also asked me why I helped organised a Muslim beauty pageant. I told them it was because of fashion and had nothing to do with religion and my activities in Kampung Sungai Ara’s mosque and surau, where I conduct events for Raya and Ramadan,” he added.

Chong said he was detained for around six or seven days. He believed his captors had spiked his food with sedatives because he felt “groggy” and lethargic for the duration of his detention.

On the last day of his detention, Chong said he was taken into a car after midnight by Amir, the second captor and the Thai man he had first met in Hat Yat and driven for 10 to 11 hours before being dropped off near Holiday Inn in Pattaya.

Chong said he was in a groggy state of mind then and sat down for a while before he went to look for help and found a police station.

“As I entered the station I was fortunate enough... the first person I saw was an English-speaking Punjabi officer, part of the Thai tourist police. I told him what happened to me, he then tried to assist me and the first thing he did was contact the embassy.

“He told me the embassy was closed because I think it was a Saturday and they can’t get anyone to answer,” he said.

The officer helped Chong contact his son who helped arrange for his flight home from Bangkok that day.

Chong said he did not lodge a report at the Pattaya police station because his detention took place in Hat Yai, which was beyond the district police’s jurisdiction.

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