Bangkok bombing survivor shares tales at police seminar
Workplan Seminar focuses on police's counter-terrorism efforts
Whenever Ms Betty Ong is out in public, especially around MRT stations and shopping malls, she is wary of foreigners and people carrying large bags.
This paranoia may seem excessive, but one may well excuse Ms Ong, for she has witnessed the horror of terrorism up close.
Two years ago, she experienced first-hand the Erawan Shrine bomb blast in Bangkok, which killed 20 people - including one Singaporean - and injured more than 120 others.
"I was in shock when I saw dead bodies all around me," the 71-year-old said at the annual Workplan Seminar held by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) yesterday.
She was one of the three panelists invited to speak at the seminar, which was attended by about 1,000 police officers and guests.
"When the bomb exploded, I was thrown off, and I could not stand up by myself," said Ms Ong.
"I was lucky enough to have only injured myself by falling onto shattered glass."
Since then, she has dropped the could-not-care-less attitude and become more aware of her surroundings, even avoiding crowded places.
Once, she spotted a bag left at a market and kept an eye on it. After 20 minutes, when no one returned to get the bag, she alerted a nearby security guard.
The owner of the bag came to claim it soon after.
The Workplan Seminar, held at the Singapore Expo, focused on the SPF's increased counter-terrorism efforts.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam spoke in his keynote address at the event about the need to strengthen community preparedness and resilience before a crisis.
"The police will take steps this year to organise our volunteers, work with them and train them, so that they know what roles they can play in an emergency," he said.In just a year, SGSecure reached out to 60,000 households and its app was downloaded onto more than 380,000 mobile devices, he added.
SGSecure is a national movement to sensitise, train and mobilise the community to play a part in preventing and dealing with a terrorist attack.
Mr Shanmugam said all existing community watch groups will be integrated under a common scheme, a larger umbrella, and that it will be rolled out by early next year.
Another panelist, Mr Shaik Mohd M. Mohideen, said Singaporeans should teach their children how to take care of themselves and look out for telltale signs when they are at the playground or even in school.
"If we want to build a society that is vigilant, we have to start from the home," said the Citizens on Patrol volunteer in Sembawang.
"Even though we may think it is just another visitor coming into the school, we have to be mindful, because there is a chance that it is not."