Late 70s fugitive Phey Yew Kok surrenders to police at age 80

Phey Yew Kok

In December 1979 Phey Yew Kok, President of the NTUC and a PAP MP, was charged on four counts of criminal breach of trust involving a total sum of $83,000 and 2 counts of breach of trade union legislation.

He was also charged on two counts under the Trade Unions Act for investing $18,000 of trade-union money in a private supermarket without the approval of the minister. As was normal in such cases, he was released on bail, but unusually he was not asked to surrender his passport.

He was out on bail of $100,000 in two sureties. His two bailors who “had trusted Phey, as an MP, a trade union leader and a friend did not expect him to abscond.” They lost $95,000 of their bail bonds when Phey disappeared.

Phey had left Singapore for Kuala Lumpur by train on 31 December 1979, and proceeded to Bangkok where he disappeared. Phey remained at large and Singapore was unable to obtain useful leads on his exact whereabouts. This notwithstanding, the warrant of arrest and the INTERPOL Red Notice against Phey continued to be in force since he absconded in 1980. 

The name of Phey remained a black mark on the PAP’s squeaky white record. His location remained a mystery for almost 40 years until today: the 24th of June 2015.

He was last heard of in Thailand.

On the 22nd of June 2015 he surrendered himself to the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok. On the 23rd of June 2015, CPIB officers accompanied Phey back to Singapore.

Phey Yew Kok, who absconded on 7 January 1980, will be produced in Court on 24 June 2015 to face the charges that were served on him in 1979. He was charged in Court on 10 December 1979 for four counts of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) and other offences under the Trade Unions Act (Cap 129). He was released on bail. On 7 January 1980, Phey failed to turn up in Court and a Warrant of Arrest was subsequently issued against him on the same day.

The NTUC had released a statement saying that they will let the justice system take its course. This is after-all a very, very old case.


Devan Nair (then Secretary General of the NTUC, and close to Phey) believed in his innocence. He wanted the CPIB to review the case, saying that an innocent man was being destroyed on false charges. Devan Nair spoke vehemently to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew (whom was not convinced of Phey’s innocence) over lunch and Mr. Lee rang up the director of the CPIB and asked for the evidence to be shown to the NTUC chief. After seeing the evidence, Devan Nair never contacted Mr. Lee.

After Phey’s case, the NTUC reformed the trade union system. Phey led the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU) and Singapore Industrial Labour Organization (SILO) and was in-charge of a large amount of money. Following that, both PIEU and SILO was broken up into 9 different unions.

ST 11 Dec 1979 p1

About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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