KUALA LUMPUR – Social activist Peter Chong, who was reported missing in April, has claimed that he was detained for a week in a room in southern Thailand by a group of young Muslims.
Testifying as a witness on the seventh day of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (Suhakam) inquiry, Chong said he was promised information regarding the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh by the group.
Chong said he decided to travel to Hatyai on April 6 after he was convinced that the group might hold valuble information on Koh, following an earlier exchange of Whatsapp messages with one of the men known only as “Amir”.
Upon reaching Hatyai, he said he was then taken to a room, where he was questioned by two men with a “heavy northern Malaysian accent”.
“The two gentlemen claimed to belong to a group of young Muslims who were out to promote Islam.
“I found that it was nothing wrong. In fact it was a good thing … They then said they disagreed with the abduction of Pastor Koh. They were saying that it did not help in promoting Islam (but) rather it sent a negative message,” he said.
“They believed if Koh had converted Muslims, he should be brought to court. They said there is a law (for apostasy), and I agreed with them,” he told the three-panel inquiry chaired by Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai.
Commissioners Prof Datuk Dr Aishah Bidin and Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Salleh also sat as the panellists at the inquiry held on the disappearance of Koh, social activist Amri Che Mat and Pastor Joshua and his wife, Ruth Hilmi.
Chong, who was formerly a concillor at Petaling Jaya City Council, however said he felt cheated as the men turned out to have no information regarding Koh’s disappearance.
He added the men said he was being held as the group were trying to use Chong as a form of intimidating others from attending candlelight vigils held for Koh, which Chong had attended before.
However, Chong said he had told his captors that he was not responsible for organising the vigil and had taken time to convince them that he was not involved.
“They said they were concerned about this candlelight vigil and I should be discouraging people from attending this vigil. I said, who am I to be able to do that, but they were convinced that I could influence people,” he said.
Chong said he was a bit worried but was not in fear as his captors were courteous and respectful, adding that he was fed ‘Tom Yam’ and Thai tea during his detention.
The group had also told Chong that there was a big difference between the abduction of Koh and the three other activists who were reported missing.
“They told me the others were completely different because the other three are or were Muslims. They knew all of this,” he said, adding that his captors might had known about the other missing activists from one of the vigils.
However, Koh’s family lawyers during the inquiry had attempted to discredit Chong’s testimony as some of it had clashed with facts.
“You said they (Chong’s captors) knew of the four missing persons from the vigil, but that cannot be true because the first such vigil (held for all missing persons) was on April 8, after you had arrived in that room,” the lawyer said.
In response, Chong said his captors might had known about it from posters of the vigil which would have been distributed earlier.
The lawyers had also raised questions on why Chong willingly took orders from someone he had only known through Whatsapp, and why the authorities or Koh’s family were not informed.
Chong stated that he went to Hatyai in good faith and as a “concerned citizen”, adding that he might not have gone to Thailand if he had informed anyone.
Later, when asked by Mah to ascertain that his testimony of being held in the room was not a figment of his imagination, Chong replied: “Certainly not.”