A Chinese name among the ISA detainees?

Mar 16, 2016 07.20PM |
 

by Yen Feng

AT 23 years old, he is one of the youngest Singaporeans to be dealt with under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in recent memory.

He would have recently finished his National Service, which may be why he thought to bring his army boots to fight in Syria. It seems he had tried to go into business, but failed. Desperate for a cause (or maybe he was bored), he went online and found a sense of kinship with the Kurds and their fight against ISIS, the terrorist group.

Perhaps it was then that he thought: I may not be a businessman, but I’m still a soldier.

Wang Yuandongyi is one of four men being investigated by the G under the Internal Security Act (ISA), said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) this afternoon (March 16). The other three are Mohammad Razif bin Yahya, 27; Amiruddin bin Sawir, 53; and Mohamed Mohideen bin Mohamed Jais, 25. Wang is youngest among the four.

All four men came under scrutiny for “undertaking or intending to undertake violence in overseas armed conflicts” – but the similarities end there for Wang.

He had not engaged in any religious studies in Yemen, the other three did.

He had not performed any armed sentry duties, the other three did.

He had not been ordered to shoot and kill, the other three were.

But he was no less guilty than the three other men, said MHA.

Since December last year, he had been planning to travel to Syria to join a Kurdish militia group to fight against ISIS. A month later, in January this year, he put his plans into action. He bought plane tickets, boarded his flight, and left Singapore to go to another country, hoping to then make his way to Turkey before travelling overland to Syria.

It’s unclear why the ministry did not identify this country in its statement – perhaps said country preferred not to be linked to suspected terrorists.

In any case, someone who knew of his plans tipped off the G and MHA asked the country’s authorities to help. They did. Wang was turned away at the gates and put on a plane back to Singapore, where he was arrested and placed under a Restriction Order (RO) that came into effect this month.

He would have to use those SAF boots another time.

Beyond these details in the statement from MHA, there is very little we know about Wang. But even with so little, his case stands out from other cases made public by the G in recent years involving the ISA and potential terrorist activity. For these reasons, we should know more about who he is and how he found sympathy for a cause that by the looks of it has very little to do with him.

Let’s start with the name.

What kind of a name is Wang Yuandongyi? Chinese? It sure sounds Chinese – and nothing like the names of most people who have been detained or investigated for terrorist activity under the ISA in the past.

He’s probably not Muslim. That’s if you assume when the MHA said Wang’s motivations were not “ideologically driven”, that it meant based on religious teachings.

So, what’s a possibly Chinese, probably non-Muslim young Singaporean man doing caught up in a religious sectarian war against ISIS?

It wasn’t so long ago that a video clip about whether people would die for Singapore went viral, creating conversations everywhere about what it means to be Singaporean.

Wang Yuandongyi is a reminder that we also need to be able to talk about why some of us – no matter what race or religion – would die for another cause and country.

 

Featured image by Natassya Diana.

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