COVID-19: Man who breached Stay-Home Notice to eat bak kut teh charged

Alan Tham Xiang Sheng, 34, was charged on 7 April 2020 for allegedly breaching his Stay-Home Notice (SHN) to eat bak kut teh. (PHOTO: Wan Ting Koh/Yahoo News Singapore)

UPDATE: A joint media release by MOH and ICA gave details on how Alan Tham Xiang Sheng allegedly breached his Stay-Home Notice.

SINGAPORE — A man who allegedly breached his Stay-Home Notice (SHN) to eat bak kut teh was charged in the State Courts on Tuesday (7 April).

Alan Tham Xiang Sheng, 34, was charged even as he was separately given a warning by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) over the same incident.

The Singaporean is accused of exposing others to the risk of the infection by his presence at the Kopitiam outlet in Terminal 3 of Changi Airport, Peninsula Plaza, Kampung Admiralty Foodfare Hawker Centre and NTUC Fairprice Kampung Admiralty on 23 March from 3.40pm to 10pm.

Tham is said to have reason to suspect that he was a contact of COVID-19 and breached the Stay-Home Notice that was in effect from 23 March to 6 April.

Tham is the first person to be charged under section 21A(1) of the Infectious Diseases Act.

Tham, who was unrepresented, said he wanted to plead guilty and did not intend to engage a lawyer.

“I already explain everything but the case is like they don’t take what I am trying to say,” he told District Judge Adam Nakhoda.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin told the court that the prosecution did not have a sentencing position yet.

Tham will return to court to make his plea on 16 April.

Visited several places for about 6.5 hours

According to a joint media release from the ICA and the Ministry of Health on Tuesday night, Tham had returned to Singapore from Myanmar on 23 March. He was served with an SHN upon his return.

On 25 March, as part of ICA enforcement checks, officers visited Tham and checked on his whereabouts on 23 March.

Tham allegedly admitted that on the day he returned from Myanmar, he had not gone home immediately, but had visited several places for about six-and-a-half hours.

Tham’s case first came to public attention after a Facebook post on 24 March claimed that Tham had gone out to eat the popular dish after he returned from Myanmar. The post detailed the man’s exchange with his friends, who advised him to comply with the SHN. The man then claimed that he thought the SHN period started the next day.

The post was referenced by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament a day later. Shanmugam said he had asked the authorities to investigate into the post and urged members of the public to inform the police if they know of anyone in breach of an SHN.

Clearly stated SHN period starts on the day of return

In a statement on 25 March, an ICA spokesperson said the agency was aware of a Facebook post reporting the alleged breach of an SHN. “The ICA has investigated the matter and has ascertained the identity of the person under SHN and the nature of the breach in this case.”

The authority added that it had clearly stated that the SHN period starts on the day of one’s return to Singapore. It added that Tham was warned not to breach the conditions of the SHN again.

Under Section 21A of the Infectious Diseases Act, those who breach the SHN will face a fine of up to $10,000, or up to six months’ imprisonment, or both. If the individual is a Singapore permanent resident, long-term visit pass holder, dependant’s pass holder or student’s pass holder, the validity of their pass may be shortened, or their pass revoked.

Foreign employees may have their Work Pass revoked, while short-term visitors may see their visit pass cancelled and they may be barred from re-entering Singapore if they were to commit the same offence. 

On 29 March, another male Singaporean, Goh Illya Victor, had his passport cancelled by ICA for breaching SHN requirements.

Goh went to Batam on 3 March, and returned to Singapore via Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on 19 March, the ICA said. He was served with an SHN on arrival but Goh decided to return to Indonesia on the same day.

Members of the public can report information about anyone who fails to comply with SHN requirements to ICA at go.gov.sg/reportshnbreach or 6812 5555.

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