Photo of Charles Chong from Straits Times

Chairman of Select Committee on fake news, PAP MP Charles Chong, has taken to state media CNA to defame several Oxford historians including Dr Thum Ping Tjin. The PAP MP who spread fake news campaign flyers in 2015 to win his election said that Dr Philip Kreager, a director-level researcher at the world’s number 1 university, Oxford, is in cahoots with Dr Thum Ping Tjin to draft a response email condemning the Singapore government – simply by citing a few emails he was copied into:

“In the email on Apr 21, Professor Jeff Burley wrote to Dr Philip Kreager, saying:

“Has PJ seen all the correspondence? If so, what is his response to this official message from Singapore? There comes a point in any discussion like this where you can just draw a line and say we tried. Pursuing things to the bitter end is more likely to be bitter for us than for a government and the University is unlikely to want a pitched battle.”

Dr Kreager replied the next day, saying:

“I have kept continuous contact with PJ on all of this, he has amongst other things suggested a draft reply for me, which I will turn to on return … and which point I shall write to all the trustees on recent developments, which are several and positive.

“There is a lot of traction, but I need to think about next steps, which I can’t just now, as the meeting is a small but intense historical workshop … but there will be a lot of historians from the meeting who will be signing the petition, and I am hopeful that several of them will be circulating our statement and the online letter for signature to their many colleagues here.”

Dr Kreager’s email is revealing, the emails lift the curtain on what has been happening in secret.

First, it strongly suggests that Dr Thum was involved in the statement of support by Project Southeast Asia. If so, it is likely Dr Thum was involved in the open letter as well, since the open letter is remarkably similar to the statement by Project Southeast Asia, with similar misstatements.

In addition, Dr Kreager was actively campaigning for Dr Thum and the two apparently have been working closely together throughout this process.

The statement by Project Southeast Asia and the open letter give an appearance of spontaneous academic support for Dr Thum in his battle against parliamentarians in an ex-colony.

Dr Kreager’s email suggests this appearance is misleading. The ‘support’ seems to have been primarily engineered by Dr Thum himself, working in close concert with Dr Kreager.”

PAP MP Charles Chong then accused the two Oxford academics of drawing foreign funding from American philanthropist George Soros to “subvert” Singapore’s “democracy”:

“Dr Kreager and Dr Thum are the only two directors of a company called Observatory Southeast Asia UK (OSEA UK), which received money from entities linked to George Soros.
OSEA UK had also intended to set up a subsidiary in Singapore to, among other things, provide editorial services to New Naratif, which carries political articles on Singapore. But the application to register the subsidiary was rejected as it was deemed contrary to Singapore’s interests.

Dr Kreager and Dr Thum are thus not mere academic colleagues. They are also business partners and fellow activists engaged in a political project directed at Singaporeans. We must protect our independence and the institution of Parliament. The information now available suggests that there has been a coordinated attempt, with foreign actors involved, to try to influence and subvert our parliamentary processes. This is a serious matter.”

Historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin may face criminal prosecution based off the assertions made by PAP MP Charles Chong, including under the Internal Security Act that could see the Oxford academic detained without trial.