Political prisoner Chia Thye Poh at odds with Nelson Mandela over world detention record

Chia Thye Poh, who was a political prisoner in Singapore for 23 years, is reportedly upset that Nelson Mandela is now widely recognized as the world record holder for longest-detained political prisoner. Mandela served 27 years in detention under apartheid before becoming the first President in the first democratic elections in South Africa. Chia, a physics teacher and member of parliament, was imprisoned October 29, 1966 for political reasons under the Lee Kwan Yew years in Singapore under the Internal Security Act, without trial, for 23 years. He was released to a one-room guardhouse in Sentosa in 1989 after 23 years in prison on the mainland, but was not allowed to leave Sentosa and had to pay rent for his room and upkeep. Chia apparently believes that the nine years spent on Sentosa should be counted toward the world record, making his total of 32 years in detention longer than Mandela’s.

Singaporeans are divided. “As Sentosa island is now a resort, it is hard to believe that 9 years spent there could be counted as ‘prison’,” said one. “Just being a normal Singaporean is sort of like being in prison too,” said another.

19 Responses to Political prisoner Chia Thye Poh at odds with Nelson Mandela over world detention record

  1. This is not a joke.

    I saw him while I was a teenager staying in the house near the entrance of Fort Siloso.

    Scary isn’t it.

    My NS helps support a regime that imprisons political dissidents.

  2. David Linehan says:

    …which makes Singapore not all that different from Myanmar!!

  3. john cheo says:

    If Singapore is “not all that different from Myanmar”, would I advise David Linehan to consider shifting over to Myanmar and reside there for good? If all, and indeed, or any of the qualities the idiosyncratic political system in Singapore boasts is deemed as useless and largely depriving her citizens of their rightful liberties, than I frankly urge disenchanted citizens to consider either making constructive changes from within, since this is widely the most effective way, or really shutting down their civil sensitivities and move away from this land that is sadly beyond any noble ideal’s rescue.

  4. Anonymous Coward says:

    why is it an all or nothing choice? Why can’t I disagree with some of the qualities of the ‘idiosyncratic political system in Singapore’ and not others?

  5. OupIDX says:

    Singapore is a fucking Police State.
    Let them know:
    We are Here!
    We support Political Prisoners!
    Not all Singaporeans are spineless!

  6. George says:

    Chia Thye Poh is far, FAR to humble to have said anything so arrogant. In fact, he notes that Mandela did have a trial… something Chia asked for, again and again and again, and never ever got.

    Counting years is an obscenity Chia would not stoop to. Anyone who has met the man knows this.

  7. Adrian Foo says:

    Whatever choices we made and choose i.e. to sow the type of seeds shall we also reap at harvest. The judgement of men is usually worthless and will be soon forgotten. For the final judgement day will eventually come when each man will need to answer for his/ her deeds and misdeeds done to others.

    Do what we can according to our abilities and consciences during our short time here on earth. For those who had lived in harmony and try to be righteous despite our imperfect man-made world we live in will surely receive God’s favors. As for Mr Chia, I prayed for your health and your family . The past is already the past but for now it is timely that you are able to take care your ageing parents, that is truly being wise and caring. All those who had refuse or deny you a fair trial will eventually have to answer for it. Politics have no place for mercy and fairness in this world because everyone put on masks to look good and righteous . Have you heard of any politician who sincerely admits and repent from mistakes.

  8. True Freedom says:

    Ridiculous to publish an article like this! Chia is not the sort of personality to make this kind of irrelavnt statement. Some stupid journo probably asked a dumb ass question, Chia responded and his words got twisted! Chia is a decent man – same as Francis Seow, Devan Nair, Vincent Cheng, etc.

    Leave the man alone. He was detained for 32 years. Forced to stay in one place, pay rent and zip his lips is not freedom or luxury on a resort island. In Singapore, freedom is illegal! Singaporeans are so passive. 32 years and hardly anyone protested. The 24 detainees from 1987/8 also didn’t get the support they deserved; even had to hire QCs because no singapore lawyer would defend them after PAP had Francis arrested. PAP has sucessfully instilled fear in its citizens. That’s why so many emigrate in order to ‘live’ as a human being should. They’ve damaged the country and its citizens’ psyche.

    • no society is perfect,
      just look beyond our shores,
      indonesian culling of communists in the past,
      vietnam/indo china war (both side were ruthless)
      khmer rouge terror of kampuchea
      china turbulent history
      thailand turbulent political climate past n present and its tense situation in its southern state predominately muslim.
      chiang kai shek ruling taiwan with a iron hand,
      vote buying in other countries,
      sodomy trial etc
      the list go on.

  9. Anonymons says:

    Not all Singaporeans are spineless, I agreed, but majority of them are gutless!

    LKY, you recently cried when your beloved wife past away. I wonder how many times the parents of Chia Thye Poh cried during those 32 years of illegal detention.

    LKY, you should be awarded with the best acting role with the Academy award!

    And for goodness sake, please do not compare Chia with Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela fought for justice with the rest of the world assisting him (except a hand full of nations, Taiwan etc) plus million of dollars as aids too. What did Chia Type Poh got for his fight for justice? Noting! A big fat zero.

  10. Terriblyvexed says:

    Please remember that this so called downtrodden political prisoner opposed the split of Singapore from Malaysia. It was because of his threats to start demonstrations and protests as a response to the separation that he was arrested. And all he had to do was to sign a document denouncing violence and the Communist Party and he could have gone free. All you people who support him, would you also support Singapore still being part of Malaysia? Or Singapore being ruled by the communist party? Or Singapore having more riots and loss of life and property? You talk about his parents crying for him, how many parents would have cried for their children if he had been allowed to go free back in the 60s?

    Society is about sacrificing the right of the individual for the greater good of the population. Singapore is successful because the government enforces this unlike many other countries where the right of an individual can outweigh the safety and needs of the rest of the country. If you prefer to live in an environment like that, move! If you like it here, then understand that the cost of the entire country progressing is the occasional trampling of some individual’s rights. There’s no ideal world where you can have both at the same time, if you think there is, look into the mirror and tell yourself you’re an idiot because that’s what you are.

    People don’t seem to know how good we have it here and how fragile this balance is, instead of treasuring it, so many people seem intent on breaking our system to replace it with some yet uninvented perfect world. Take a lesson from this guy, spends 32 years in jail protesting the government only to come out and find Singapore a vibrant and modern city. I’d be embarrassed and humbled if I’d bet on the wrong horse with 32 years of my life. Why don’t you anti-government types bet 32 years of your life against the government? If you’re right and they fall, you might President when you get out.

    But then again, not every political prisoner is right, go on, roll the dice and find out if you are?

  11. should have sign the confession for practical reasons,

  12. incrediblyvexed says:

    While I respect the man for his willpower, a prisoner with the ability to set himself free like Chia Thye Poh is in a far different category than someone like Nelson Mandela who had no way to get out. If you think LKY should be responsible for Chia Thye Poh’s parents’ distress, then what do you think of a man who would rather stay in prison for his belief in communism than sign a simple document renouncing it and go out and get a job and look after his father and mother? If you imagine if he is some kind of hero, then imagine what Singapore would be like now if he had succeeded in implementing a communist government. Obviously Chia Thye Poh thinks he’s some sort of a hero and expects recognition for it. But being in prison for refusing to sign a document renouncing communism and violence makes you nothing more than a public nuisance who was locked up for the safety of the entire country. It’s not something I would brag about and it’s definitely not the same as the sacrifices made by Nelson Mandela.

    My advice to you sir, enjoy the freedom that you’ve gained and be thankful that, unlike other countries, political prisoners here don’t “disappear”.

  13. On hindsight,perhaps in the early days we could have send him(with his consent) to vietnam/china/cambodia where he may well have put his intellect into better use n even raise a family of his own 4 that matter.
    A waste of talent for a former MP and teacher of physics.

  14. the greatest of mandala was not that he spent 30+-years in prison,
    it was a high sacrifice but many black africans die fighting for a cause they believe in notably the late steve bilko.
    The greatest of nelson was as president of SA,he adopted a progressive/pragmatic policy regardless of past wrong,race or religion.

  15. incrediblyvexed says:

    Exactly, a spirit of forgiveness and reunification that sets Nelson Mandela apart from other political prisoners who might try to identify themselves in the same light. Shame on CTP for thinking he even qualifies to compete for the same record.

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