Malaysia: More questions than answers in kidnapping of pastor Raymond Koh
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Malaysia: More questions than answers in kidnapping of pastor Raymond Koh

IT’S been three weeks since pastor Raymond Koh was dragged from his car in broad daylight, in the middle of a busy street, and forced into the vehicle of his kidnappers.

Since that dark Monday, there have been no leads, no message of ransom from his kidnappers and little progress in the police operation.

Twenty one days after he went missing, there remain more questions than answers in this mysterious case.

Koh, 62, was abducted on Feb 13 from a street in Kelana Jaya, just outside of the capital Kuala Lumpur, while on his way to a friend’s house.

Leaked CCTV footage of the attack shows a military-style, professionally executed operation in which seven cars and at least 15 men took part.

Koh’s car was seen turning off a highway as three black SUVs surrounded it and forced it to a stop.

At least eight men in black emerged from the SUVs, according to the subtitles on the video, and another man emerged from a car behind them to record the operation.

As seen in the video, a struggle ensued and Koh’s car was seen to leap forward, crashing into the SUV in front of it. Broken glass and Koh’s licence plate was found at the scene.

Vehicles also tailed the convoy in an effort to deter any witness approaching from behind. A confrontation between one such witness and a perpetrator is seen on the footage.

The whole operation took only 40 seconds before the convoy of vehicles and the victim’s car were driven away.

The military precision of the kidnapping has raised questions as to who the perpetrators are and why such an expert operation was used to capture the seemingly harmless and well-liked pastor.

Koh was a dedicated philanthropist and charity worker. He set up charity organisation Harapan Komuniti in 2004 to help single mothers, drug addicts and those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Children are also welcome at the centre in Petaling Jaya to complete their homework after school hours and receive free English tuition.

By all accounts, Koh was a humanitarian who was committed to helping the less fortunate and the marginalised in Malaysian society.

The only controversy he courted was in 2011 when his work and affiliation with the Church attracted the attention of the Selangor Islamic Department (Jais).

A thanksgiving and fundraising dinner, organised by Koh to thank volunteers and supporters, was raided by Jais under the premise the event was being used to proselytise Muslims to Christianity, an illegal act in Malaysia. This accusation proved to be false.

SEE ALSO: Islam in Malaysia: When religion infiltrates the government

Soon after the raid, in a clear threat to his life, Koh received a bullet mailed to his home.

Despite Koh lodging a police report about the threat, nothing came of police investigations and no suspect was apprehended.

Police are investigating a link between the 2011 threat and his current disappearance.

Selangor police chief Abdul Samah Mat said police have not ruled out the possibility the two cases are connected.

But other than this small lead, there has been little progress and a noteworthy silence from the authorities investigating the disappearance.

This led Koh’s son, Jonathan, to file a second missing persons report on Feb 27 to urge police to treat the matter more seriously, stating his suspicion his father had been murdered.

The family has offered an RM100,000 (US$22,500) reward for any information that may lead to the pastor’s whereabouts but, as yet, it has proved fruitless.

The abduction has stunned many Malaysians and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it have fuelled the rumour mills, with some questioning if the country is safe for Christians.

Some fear this is an act of religious persecution with groups such as The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Taoists releasing public statements on the matter.

“News of his abduction have fanned fears across all religious divides in Malaysian society, as it is unprecedented for a man of faith to be abducted in this way in our peaceful multicultural country,” the statement read.

There are rumours Koh may have been part of the “underground” church where locals who have converted to Christianity from Islam are able to practise their faith in secret as apostasy is illegal in Malaysia.

SEE ALSO: Brunei, M’sia, Indonesia rated region’s worst violators of rights, religious freedom

None of these rumours, however, has been substantiated and remain just that, rumours.

Koh’s son told The Star he believes his father was kidnapped because he “speaks what he believes in and he shares his beliefs with people”.

But other than wild speculation, there has yet to be any credible explanation as to what happened to Koh.

Rights groups and local MPs have been urging the Malaysian authorities to step up investigations.

Lawyers for Liberty, a Malaysia-based legal rights group, has called for authorities to “investigate this matter seriously”.

Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim described the abduction as an “act of terror” and said in a statement the security forces must be deployed to make headway in the investigation.

The investigation continues, but with no ransom, no sightings and uncharacteristic silence from police, questions remain.

Where is Raymond Koh? Who had wanted to kidnap him? And, the most puzzling question: why?

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