Mum hears his cries in living room

M'sia toddler in critical condition after snake bite

CRITICAL: This 18-month-old boy was playing when he was bitten by a snake in his home.
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Woman chased, choked a 10-year-old girl

Woman pleads guilty to attacking 10-year-old at bus interchange

She regularly accompanies her father when he goes to work as an SBS Transit bus driver.

But on May 23, when Elizerbeth Chua Hui Ping, 25, saw a woman boarding her father's bus at Boon Lay Interchange with a drink, she got
angry.

She started shouting at passengers and challenged them to a fight.

When one of the passengers asked her to calm down because she was scaring her 10-year-old daughter, Chua marched over and choked the girl.

When the terrified girl managed to slip away, Chua chased her around the interchange.

Chua was arrested and was released on bail on June 7.

But the next day, she attacked a 14-year-old girl at the same interchange.

Chua pleaded guilty in court yesterday to one count each of committing public nuisance, voluntarily causing hurt and using threatening behaviour towards the younger girl.

Two other charges - of committing public nuisance and voluntarily causing hurt to the older girl - will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

Chua had accompanied her father as he drove the 194 bus on May 23.

ACCOMPANY

Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok said Chua would routinely accompany him to work so that he could look out for her.

Court papers did not say why he needed to take care of her.

At about 1.10pm, passengers boarded the bus when it stopped at a boarding berth at the interchange.

But Chua spotted one of them with a drink and scolded her.

The woman got off, threw it away and returned to the bus, but that did not calm Chua down.

She became more agitated and continued creating a ruckus, prompting the young girl's mother to ask her to calm down and lower her volume.

The girl and her mother, who were seated near the driver, cannot be named due to a gag order.

When Chua attacked the child, her mother quickly stepped in and pushed Chua away.

The girl ran out of the bus in fear. Her mother went looking for her.

Chua followed the mum and they got into a scuffle, until passers-by separated them.

But Chua spotted the girl and chased her around the interchange.

The terrified child ran to the second storey and hid near a shop.

After some time, a passer-by accompanied her to the interchange office where her anxious mother was waiting.

The girl was taken to the National University Hospital, where she was treated for multiple scratches on the right side of her neck.

Chua, who is represented by lawyer Foo Juyuan, is out on bail of $10,000.

She will be back in court on July 18.

For voluntarily causing hurt, she can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.

Lit candle causes fire at Jurong condo

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Easy money lures more youths into loansharking activities

More youths arrested for loanshark activities

The advertisements online and on social media promise fast cash for part-time work.

Invariably, young people who apply for these jobs find out that they must carry out loansharking activities, including harassment of debtors.

Many of them, attracted by the easy money on offer, still sign up.

Invariably, most get arrested for breaking the law and could end up doing hard time in prison.

Even first-time offenders can face up to five years in jail, a fine and caning.

LURE: ASP Mohamad Farhan Anas showing examples of online recruitment advertisements for loansharking activities. TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
 

This new trend can be seen by the huge increase in the number of arrests for unlicensed moneylending harassment in just a year.

From January to April last year, there were just 10 arrests. For the same period this year, the number jumped to 61.

Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Mohamad Farhan Anas told The New Paper yesterday that a lot of young people were recruited mainly through social media sites such as Facebook and online classified sites such as Gumtree.

The advertisements are usually vague, where the nature of the job scope is never specified, added ASP Farhan, who is one of the officers in charge for the unlicensed money lending strike force.

Young people, including students, are attracted by the amount of money offered - up to $200 per job or a day's work.

"When these youth contact the advertisers, the unlicensed moneylender would then give them details. The main lure is the fast cash," said ASP Farhan.

RISE

The switch from traditional methods of recruitment such as flyers or word of mouth, to more sophisticated platforms such as social media, with its wider reach, could be one reason for the rise in youth joining the illegal trade.

ASP Farhan said: "This is the year where we really saw a jump. In some cases, the youth were recruited through social media."

Out of the 61 youths arrested this year, only a small minority were debtors turned runners.

Most were unsuspecting youth targeted through recruitment advertisement, said ASP Farhan.

Depending on the severity of the methods used to harass the debtors, loanshark runners can sometimes be paid up to $400 to $500 per job.

They are usually given specific instructions by their bosses, especially if it is their first time.

They could be instructed to go to a hardware shop to buy kerosene and lighter fluid to set fire to the door of a targeted flat.

They even take videos of the fire, which are later used to harass the debtor living there.

ASP Farhan said one of the worst cases his team had seen was a fire at a Woodlands flat in March.

A 46-year-old woman, who was trapped in the flat during the fire, was taken to Singapore General Hospital for smoke inhalation.

A 19-year-old was later arrested for allegedly setting fire to the flat.

To prevent more youth getting involved in unlicensed moneylending harassment, the Community Policing Units from the 35 Neighbourhood Police Centres use a set of PowerPoint slides to help raise awareness among youths during their patrols.

More long-term plans include school talks, usually done by the CPUs, after the June school holidays.

They will spread awareness through social media as well.

An 18-year-old currently at the New Charis Mission halfway house, told TNP that he got involved in loansharking activities because of his friends.

The teen, who cannot be named, said: "I knew I was doing something wrong, but I chose to continue because I needed the money.

"Depending on what kind of job, sometimes I get paid $100 to $200 per job."

While he was never charged for his offences, he regrets what he had done.

ASP Farhan said it can be disheartening to see youths being arrested for unlicensed moneylending harassment.

"For me, it's disappointing because the nature of the offence is very serious. And they had done it by choice.

"It's disheartening because they have to be charged in court and end up with a criminal record despite their young age."

CONSEQUENCES

Agreeing, Congruence Counselling Services counsellor John Vasavan, 56, said that youths who are attracted to easy money might not realise the consequences of their actions and they can get caught.

"Once you have a criminal record, you'll find it difficult to get a job. Even if you can, it might not be a good job," he added.

First-time offenders found guilty of assisting in the business of unlicensed moneylending can be fined between $30,000 and $300,000, be jailed up to four years and caned up to six strokes.

First-time offenders found guilty of acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender, committing or attempting to commit any acts of harassment can be jailed up to five years, fined between $5,000 and $50,000, and caned between three and six strokes.

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