Thursday, May 22, 2008


What was to be a business trip turned into a hellish nightmare for a Singaporean marketing director.

It was Mr Ronald Wong Yoke Kheong's first trip to the United States. He had left Singapore on 4 May, a Sunday, on an early morning flight to participate in a trade exhibition in Houston New Orleans, and Canada, and was to return only on 17 May. from 5 to 8 May.

His flight landed in Houston at 8.30pm (local time) on 4 May. He saw two police officers at the plane's exit door, checking each passenger's passport as they disembarked.

The 49-year-old marketing director, a seasoned traveler said: 'I thought it was just a routine check. But the two officers stopped me after checking my passport. They took me aside, and said they wanted to speak to me.

At the Houston airport, Mr Wong was taken to a room with glass windows, It had only a table and a few chairs. He noticed that the officers outside were all armed.

'I was still not worried, as I knew I didn't commit any crime.'

But alarm bells started to go off in his head when an officer ordered him to remove all items from his pockets.

'I was allowed to wear my watch, but I had to hand over my handphone, my wallet and check-in luggage,' he said. The only exception was the cash in his wallet. He had about USD$7,500 ($10,250) as well as some Singapore money.

Mr Wong was then taken into a room next door, where he would spend the next 19 hours under interrogation.

'I asked to make a call to my company and wife to inform them, but the officers didn't allow me to,' he said.

They repeated the questions over and over. It was exhausting, but I answered all their questions,' he said. After 19 hours of being questioned and going without food, the worst was yet to come.

The next day at about 3pm, two prison officers came and wanted to handcuff me and shackle my ankles,' he said. 'I asked them why, but they said it was the standard procedure.'

The handcuffs and leg cuffs were chained together.

'It was very humiliating to be treated like a convict. The leg cuffs hurt and I had to walk like Frankenstein since my movements were restricted,' Mr Wong recounted.

'I couldn't even hold up my hands to scratch my nose.'

He was put in a van and taken to a prison, where he was told to change into a blue prison uniform. He had to hand over all his possessions, and was put in a holding cell with four benches with about 20 other people.

After another 24 hours, he was given back his clothes and taken back to the detention room at the airport.

'The questioning continued. And my requests to make phone calls were denied,' he said.

The hours wore on and Mr Wong grew more weary and despondent.

Finally there was a glimpse of hope when he was told the Singapore Embassy wanted to speak with him.

'I was relieved that someone knew about my plight, and I asked the embassy official to inform my wife.'

At about 10pm, three days after his ordeal began, Mr Wong was told he was to be deported. No reason was given to Mr Wong for his detention.

He finally arrived in Singapore on 8May. He was escorted by two Singapore police officers after he got off the plane. After he cleared immigration, he met his wife who was at the airport.

Until today, Mr Wong does not know why he was detained. He said he has written to the US embassy here for an explanation...asiaone

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