Public backlash against Toa Payoh hawker centre couple continues despite apologies

Even their public apology was mocked.

By Tanya Ong |Belmont Lay | August 13, 2017

Comeuppance not enough

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the Toa Payoh hawker centre couple revealed they have been feeling ostracised ever since a video of their altercation with an elderly man was caught on video in April 2017.

For the past four months, they felt they could not escape public scrutiny and have been “living like fugitives” and “punished by society”.

Publicly recognised

Chow Chuin Yee, 45, a tuition centre director, said he and his partner, Tay Puay Leng, 38, were recognised, despite maintaining a low profile following the incident that sparked widespread outrage.

One incident occurred six weeks after the initial video went viral online.

According to ST:

“I took her out to have a meal at a hawker centre. But someone recognised us, and started to film us, drawing a lot of attention for other people to look at us,” said Mr Chow. “We were just queuing up for a meal; it’s scary.”

Chow also recounted how another man tried to provoke him to retaliate:

“One time this guy purposely stepped backward while queuing up for food, and stepped on my toes hoping I would pick a fight,” said Mr Chow.

His partner, Tay, said she had to seek psychiatric treatment after experiencing anxiety from being in public.

Latest twist

The couple speaking to the media about their own experiences occurred after they took turns to make tearful apologies outside of court on Friday, following their sentencing.

The videos of their emotional apologies were also widely shared online.

However, it appears the apologies cut no ice with some as the backlash from the Singapore public continued. Comments in response to the apologies judged the couple to be insincere and not contrite enough.

Some went as far as to say that they would not have learnt their lesson if they were not caught in the first place.

When Tay explained during her apology why she reacted rashly that evening at the hawker centre and the reason for not being able to personally apologise to the elderly man earlier, she was accused of coming up with excuses.

Tay said the police had advised them not to approach the elderly man as investigations were ongoing at that time.

One reason for the couple speaking to the media now would be because they want to make amends by reaching out to the elderly man to apologise personally.

The latest update is that the elderly man and his family have not responded.

Mocked in reaction skit

Despite Chow and Tay’s appeal to make reparations, one Facebook page, SBS – Sure Boh Singapore, went as far as uploading a 2min 6sec video skit mocking the apology and the couple a mere day after it happened, insinuating they are good actors.

Others more sympathetic

For all the backlash that has resulted, which does not appear to be abating anytime soon, other Singaporeans are more sympathetic and calling for the rest to move on.

While these Singaporeans were more forgiving, another common thread among reactions was that Singaporeans are willing to go so far as to dish out retribution to this extent.

About the case

The Toa Payoh hawker centre couple were fined in court on Aug. 11, 2017.

Tutor Tay Puay Leng, 38, was fined S$1,200 for using abusive words with the intent to cause alarm.

Chow Chuin Yee, 45, a tuition centre director, was fined S$1,500 for using criminal force on an elderly man by using his body to forcefully barge into him in the back.

The offence the couple committed took place at about 8.35pm at the Toa Payoh Lorong 8 hawker centre on April 21. The pair were caught on video intimidating an elderly man in the food centre.

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About Tanya Ong

Tanya is a keen bean who strives to put the “art” in “articulate”. She also knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

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