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May 10, 2009

How I 'Sneaked' into Malaysia

The (re)capture of a sleeping Mas Selamat in Skudai incites as many questions as there are applauses. How did he escape from a maximum detention centre and the watchful eyes of our border patrol into neighboring Malaysia?

I do not know how our fugitive sneaked into Malaysia. But I can tell you how I 'sneaked' into Malaysia - with an empty white immigration card and no immigration chop - on May 3, 2009.

I have always wanted to 'test' the Malaysian immigration at its weakest point. For years and perhaps unknown to many, Malaysia and Singapore had their CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) operations in the same building in downtown Singapore. The building, Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, was (and still is) the southern terminus of the Malaysian Railway (KTM, or Keretapi Tanah Melayu). It was a security risk for Singapore as weapons or drugs could be smuggled in from anywhere along the track. A fugitive like Mas Selamat could also hop on a train from anywhere along the track and slip out of Singapore. In 1998, Singapore finally shifted her CIQ to WTCP (Woodlands Train Checkpoint).

Today the sequence of immigration clearance is illogical because Malaysia still has her CIQ at Tanjong Pagar Station. You clear Malaysia immigration at Tanjong Pagar before you clear Singapore immigration at Woodlands, so technically you enter Malaysia before you exit Singapore. For entry into Singapore, the sequence of clearance is per normal - Malaysia has her CIQ at Johore Bahru Railway Station for outgoing trains. There is no immigration clearance for arriving trains at Tanjong Pagar.

Here is what happened on May 3.

Teh Tarik

The 'mission' started with a cup of teh-tarik. I decided sipping teh-tarik was a good way to start the day.

Teh Tarik

Actually the teh-tarik was only a cover. While enjoyable, my real purpose was to survey the area beyond the Malaysian Immigration from the arrival platform.

Where is my train, why has it not arrived?

0815 Gate

I can't wait to escape from Singapore. I finished my teh-tarik hurriedly and went to board the 0815 train at the departure platform.

On the noticeboard, it was written:
PLEASE FILL UP THE IMM.26 CARD (IMMIGRATION FORM) BEFORE PROCEED TO IMMIGRATION COUNTER.
I proceeded to immigration without the immigration form.

Malaysia Immigration

There was a queue due to a tour group. I did not find the immigration form so I continued queueing. How would the immigration officer react when I present my passport sans immigration form?

At the counter, the officer did ask me, rather casually, about the form to confirm I did not have it. I shook my head. She returned my passport with the immigration form in it.

Train at different platform

The train was not visible previously because it was parked at another platform. I hopped onto it. My way to freedom.

I alighted at Woodlands Train Checkpoint to clear Singapore immigration. I had already 'cleared' Malaysia immigration at the railway station so the sequence of clearance is illogical.



With the train chugging along the causeway, you know you have found your way to freedom.

Johore Bahru Railway Station

The train will stop at Johore Bahru Station to pick up passengers. You can alight and run off in the direction of Skudai.

My May 3 journey was a novel way to enter Malaysia. For the first time, I tried entering Malaysia without a immigration card and succeeded. According to the Immigration Department of Malaysia,
A visitor is required to complete the Arrival/Departure Card (Imm.26) upon arrival at the gazette entry points .. A visitor must present his/her passport together with the duly completed arrival/departure card to the Immigration officer on duty and he/she must ensure that the passport or travel document is endorsed with the appropriate pass before leaving the immigration counter.
From young, we were reminded to check our passport for the white card (arrival half kept by the immigration officer) and the chop. The visitor is tasked to "ensure the passport .. is endorsed with the appropriate pass". In a sense the Malaysian immmigration is absolved of responsibility so the anecdotal tale goes that when relationship with our neighbour turns sour, their immigration officer may 'sabo' you by not chopping or leaving you the departure half of the card.

After clearing Malaysia immigration at Tanjong Pagar, I took the following picture of my empty immigration form/white card.

Imm.26

The novelty of the situation struck me. I was trying to get used to my 'fugitive' status (there were other distractions as well). The thought of checking for the chop eluded me. In fact the chop escaped my attention until my journey home (eh, do you seriously believe I ran off to Skudai?)

As I wrote before, Malaysia has her CIQ at Johore Bahru Station for outgoing trains. There, their immigration officers will board the train and keep your departure half of the card but they will not chop your passport. In fact they board the train with nothing more than a pen. With the pen, they find the remaining passengers and sign their passport.

The chop returned to haunt me on my return trip. Usually I will slot the white card in the correct page (the one with chop) to facilitate the clearing process. At Johore Bahru Station, I realized I could not find the chop! The discovery almost freaked me out.

My passport in his hand, I could see the immigration officer searching for the chop. He flipped the pages but did not question me. That was a surprise. He then wrote something on my passport.

This was what he wrote:

No Immigration Chop

I heaved a sigh of relief. I was cleared to leave Malaysia.

From our perspective, CIQ operations at Tanjong Pagar Station can only be described as lacking. There was no H1N1 temperature check, not to mention any X-ray check on luggage for prohibited items. The white card was not readily available. They did not chop my passport. I'm not sure whether they scanned my passport for that would be the only record of me entering Malaysia.

18 comments:

peter said...

Do u really think Mas will queue up like u and I at the CIQ?

Icemoon said...

He doesn't stand a chance. They evacuate everybody from the train. There are officers guarding all directions from the train, even one lady on the grassy slope opposite the platform. And I saw doggie going for a walk. All the trouble for a train leaving Singapore.

ISD said...

Don't be too happy. You are now under our "closely-watched" watchlist.

MSB said...

We are watching you too.

CIA said...

Don't worry. We will protect you.

yg said...

there are certain stories in the papers i don't buy. (1) that he made his way from whitley centre to the north coast of s'pore without any assistance from anyone; and (2) that he started his crossing for stulang from admiralty road west.
i still stick to my theory that he made the crossing from kranji. in actual distance, from kranji to the johor shore may be longer but at low tide, you can wade more than half the distance, leaving you to swim about 1000m.

Anonymous said...

AWARE

Sit Down and Shut Up!

The Bakerwoman said...

I wonder what happened to the CCTV whilst he was in Singapore camp?

Didn't they "playback" and monitor how he managed to escape?

Perhaps Mas should be guarded in Changi Prison instead......under the watchful eyes of the Gurkhas! ;)

peter said...

CCTV not working? CCTV did not have recording facility because during tender, went for the cheapest deal (or lack of foresight like our MRTC)? CCTV had recording facility but storage was limited.

Mohamed Azmee said...

I heard a 29 Class Locomotive. Hahaha, hope you've enjoyed the train ride.

Icemoon said...

Hi Celopz, perhaps I'm unlucky but I've only taken trains hauled by 29 Klas. I can't remember how YDM4 sound like 'cos I was asleep in SM.

yg said...

icemoon, are you still sneaking here and there? have you taken a sneak at chun see's cock on his blog?

Icemoon said...

Now in a safe house managed by CIA .. lol

Yes, I read what happened to the oldest cock. I wonder what could happen if the cock met Peter's cat.

Anonymous said...

http://www.asiaone.com/Travel/Tips/General/Story/A1Story20070523-8504.html

Anonymous said...

This is crap. I don't think the security in either malaysia or singapore is that bad. Something special must have happened on Mas. You do the guess. Everything can be doubted if you see it in a wider perspective.

Anonymous said...

Every time I went to Malaysia I never had to fill out any IMM.26 form. They just stamp my passport, and take my fingerprints on an ad-hoc basis. Weird because I see other people waiting in line with their IMM.26 form. Maybe it's just because I hold a U.S. passport...

Anonymous said...

This person is stupid or stupid. He thinks he is clever but he is not. Wishing thinking on your side that you outdid the authorities.

In the first place. The reason why Malaysia does NOT chop your passport is because of Singapore's complaint, like what you said, the illogical sequence of entering Malaysia.

Passengers who board at TPRS are issued that white card with a TPRS stamp on it. When you leave Malaysia by train on ANY station (excluding Johor Bahru), which means that you clear custom on board the train, your passport will NOT be stamped at all albeit the immigration authority's signature.

If you do not have that white card with the TPRS stamp when you leave Malaysia, you are in DEEP SHIT. Don't worry, the authorities know you are in Malaysia, I thought you had realli avoided custom but this is pure bullshit on your part.

Icemoon said...

To latest Anon, thanks for the clarification. But you did not tell us how they knew I was in Malaysia. I did say, "I'm not sure whether they scanned my passport for that would be the only record of me entering Malaysia.".