Man jailed for trespassing into army training ground to 'pick pandan leaves'

·Senior Reporter
·4 min read
Ama Keng Road (PHOTO: Google Street View)
Ama Keng Road (PHOTO: Google Street View)

SINGAPORE — A man who trespassed into an army training ground claimed that he was conducting “works” when caught by a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officer.

Cheng Lee Meng, 62, later changed his story, claiming that he was conducting “prayers”, before claiming that he was there to pick pandan leaves.

Cheng was jailed for two months on Tuesday (30 November) after he pleaded guilty to entering a protected area without authorisation in common intention with Ng Kiong Hoe, 63, despite signboards designating the area as “protected”.

Ng was fined $2,000 in August for his role in the offence.

At about 2.45pm on 9 September last year, Cheng drove a van to the padlocked gate at Ama Keng Road Track 9. Ng alighted to unlock the gate while Cheng drove the van in. 

As Ng began closing the gate, Johan Kassim, a Second Warrant Officer, rushed forward to detain them.

When Johan asked Ng what he was doing there, Ng remained silent. He asked Cheng, who claimed that he was a contractor from “TKK” who was there to conduct works. However, Johan found this suspicious as he was specifically briefed that there would be no works at the area that day.

Cheng then pretended to call his boss at TKK and passed the phone to Johan. While the person on the line claimed to be Cheng’s boss, he hung up when Johan asked for his identity.

“Cheng next changed his account to claim that he entered Track 9 to conduct prayers. When (Johan) disbelieved him, Cheng changed his account again to claim he was there to pick pandan leaves,” said the prosecution.

When asked how he got the key to the gate, Cheng said someone had passed it to him, but did not reveal who. Johan called the police but Cheng became hostile, raising his voice and asking why Johan was not “giving him a chance”, 

The police later arrested Cheng and Ng.

Police traced how Cheng had obtained key

Under investigation, both Cheng and Ng claimed to have gone to Track 9 to pick pandan leaves. Cheng claimed that he had been entrusted a set of keys by the SAF in 2000 when he still operated a business at Ama Keng Dormitory. He was supposed to open a gate near the dormitory leading to the SAF training ground.

When the dormitory and this gate were closed, Cheng tried using the keys on the newly constructed Track 9 gate and found that one of them worked.

His account was later proven false. SAF constructed the Track 9 gate in 2019 and used a new padlock, rather than an old one from 2000.

The police obtained a list of all contractors who had access to the key to the Track 9 gate and cross-checked this against all the contacts in Cheng’s phone. They found a person by the name of Tan Kim Hua to be a common point of contact.

Cheng knew that Tan conducted pest control work at SAF training grounds and had asked Tan to duplicate the key to the Track 9 gate. Tan obliged but said he did not hand the key over to Cheng personally.

Cheng would also ask Tan for dates that training exercises would be held so that he could avoid entering the area then. Tan was in the know as he was not allowed conduct pest control works on those dates.

Cheng called Tan on 9 September last year to ask if exercises would be held, but Tan told him not to enter the area as it was illegal.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gabriel Choong sought three to six months' for Cheng, whom he said had persuaded Tan to divulge confidential and sensitive information on SAF’s training schedule so that he could enter the protected area undetected. This was not a spur of the moment offence that warranted a fine, unlike in Ng's case, said DPP Choong.

Cheng also actively worked to mislead investigators, added DPP Choong. 

Under the Infrastructure Protection Act 2017, for trespassing into a protected area, Cheng could have been jailed up to two years, or fined up to $20,000 or both. 

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