Community vigilance important for national security: Bangkok blast survivor

Community vigilance important for national security: Bangkok blast survivor

Most Singaporeans cannot imagine being caught up in a terror attack. Bangkok blast survivor Mdm Betty Ong tells Channel NewsAsia why stepping up community vigilance and readiness is a must for national security.

SINGAPORE: Most Singaporeans cannot imagine being caught up in a terror attack, but they will soon learn what to do in the event of one through a national programme called SG Secure.

The community-centred response plan was announced on Friday by Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam, as part of a three-fold approach to enhance Singapore's counter-terrorism strategy.

One Singaporean who survived a terror attack told Channel NewsAsia why stepping up community vigilance and readiness is a must.

"IT CAME AS A REAL SURPRISE"

In August 2015, Mdm Betty Ong and her siblings were offering prayers at Bangkok's popular Erawan Shrine when a bomb exploded.

"I didn't expect any kind of experience of a bomb blast. It came as a surprise, a real surprise. My brother was the one who highlighted to me and said 'Duck!', and I wondered why. Next, I turned my head, and the blast happened inside the temple," she said.

She also recalled not knowing what to do on seeing her sister's bleeding leg.

"I really didn't know what I'm (supposed) to do. The only thing I had in my bag was a handkerchief, so I just used the handkerchief to tie (her leg), to make sure the bleeding stops," Mdm Ong said.

The attack has also made her more vigilant. Mdm Ong remembered an incident where she found a bag in a supermarket.

"I kept walking, and I kept seeing the bag there. So I alerted the security, and asked if something should be done. The security stood there for quite a while, and asked people not to go around there," she said.

The bag did not turn out to be a threat, but having witnessed the carnage of a bomb attack first-hand, Mdm Ong said Singaporeans must not take the nation's security for granted.

The Government wants Singaporeans to be prepared for situations like the one Mdm Ong found herself in. As such, SG Secure aims to equip the community with the skills needed to respond to such a crisis - for example, knowing what to do when someone is injured in an attack.

But are Singaporeans ready to take up the challenge?

"I'm not very sure that most Singaporeans are prepared, but I hope that the younger generation will take up this challenge because there is a new threat throughout the world and in the nation," a lady told Channel NewsAsia.

"If there are training opportunities, I will definitely pick it up. Because these are some skills that are very good. You never know when you're going to need it. If you do have it, you may even help your own family members. And best of all you can help anybody," said a man, who was at an outreach event aiming to prepare Singaporeans for emergencies.

DIFFICULT TO GET SINGAPOREANS TO RECOGNISE TERROR THREAT

A psychologist said getting Singaporeans to recognise that a terror threat is looming at their doorstep will not be easy.

Mr Neo Eng Chuan, Principal Psychologist at Caper Spring, said most Singaporeans would hold onto the mindset that Singapore is a safe place due to their experiences.

"Now to help him think of it in a very different way, he really would have to put effort into it. That's counter-intuitive, and counter-reality to some extent," he said.

Mr Neo added that beyond education and information, it is important to help people understand the consequences of a terror attack - for example, through the sharing of real-life experiences - to drive home the reality of the situation.

Source: CNA/dl

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