Former Secret Society Headman Sentenced To 3-years’ Jail : 35 Years After Fatal Riot


After more than three decades on the run, Lee Koh Yong, former headman of a secret society, has returned to Singapore and surrendered for medical reasons. The 65-year-old was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on Wednesday for one count of rioting.

The court heard that the incident occurred in 1988 when Lee, then aged 30, was the headman of a triad society, according to CNA report.


The riot began with an argument between two groups at a chalet near East Coast Park in August 1988. On September 3, 1988, Lee was asked by a gang member to go to a discotheque around Stadium Road as they had spotted members of a rival gang. Lee called others to join him and proceeded to the location with three others in a van.

Upon arriving at Stadium Road, Lee’s group planned to attack the rival gang members as they left the disco.

Meanwhile, a 17-year-old victim arrived at the location with two friends, intending to meet another friend at the disco. When the victim’s friend recognized a member of Lee’s gang from the previous argument, they decided to turn around and walk away. However, Lee’s gang confronted the victim and his friend and began assaulting them with wooden sticks and poles from nearby construction works.

As per the report, during the attack, Lee observed from a short distance away, believing his gang was already winning. The assault lasted three to four minutes, during which the victim and his friend were knocked unconscious. The gang then fled the scene.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, and an autopsy revealed that he died from a contused brain due to a fractured skull.

Upon learning of the victim’s death, Lee fled Singapore and went into hiding in Malaysia, where he stayed for more than 30 years. He returned to Singapore on March 17 of this year with the intention of surrendering and receiving a medical check-up, as he had been unable to seek medical treatment overseas.

Several members of Lee’s gang have already been sentenced to jail in connection with the fatal incident.

The prosecution sought a three-year jail term for Lee along with an additional three months in lieu of caning, as Lee is above the age of 50 and therefore not eligible for caning.

Defense lawyers argued for a three-year jail term without the additional caning punishment, emphasizing that Lee did not strategically wait until he turned 50 to surrender and avoid caning.

The defense also highlighted Lee’s deteriorating health conditions, which include cataracts, gout, cardiovascular disease, and frequent blood in his stools.

In a letter presented to the court, Lee’s daughter expressed her father’s desire to put the case behind him and rebuild his life. She also noted that Lee had carried guilt for not visiting his parents and their graves since 1989.

The defense requested leniency to allow Lee to “mend the broken pieces of his life.”

Lee could have faced up to five years in prison for rioting, and caning would have been a possibility had he been below the age of 50.

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