FINDING ARTHUR (THAM YING HONG a.k.a. THAM YIN HONG)
When I first encountered this case (WO 235/821), I noticed that there were some things that were quite unusual about it compared to other trial cases I had examined. To begin with, the victims were not only named but there were details such as the addresses of their homes. There was mention of a simultaneous raid on the victims' two homes. That he had two homes suggested to me that he was of prominent standing and as such, became an obvious suspect during the Double Tenth Incident.
On a whim and a hunch, I decided to search for Tham Ying Hong online through the addresses mentioned in the trial papers. This brought me in touch with Ian, who is Tham Ying Hong's great-grandson. From this contact, I learned that Tham Ying Hong (a.k.a. Tham Yin Hong) was born on 15 July 1894 and had an English name -- Arthur. This suggested to me that he was likely a 'King's Chinese' (i.e. elite class of English-speaking Chinese). And that his role, stated in the trial papers as 'Chinese Inspector of Fisheries Department,' was a prominent one in the British colonial government. In fact, Ian refers to Arthur's occupation as 'Director of the Fisheries Department.' The reason why he had two homes was because he had two wives. Kenneth Tham Keng Yan was his only son.
I was really blown away with what Ian shared. In my experience analysing the trials, you don't often get much of a sense of who the victims really are or their background. To be able to hear from surviving relatives is such an amazing Godsend. To be able to learn a bit more about the victim's background also helps clarify circumstances. I shared the case involving Ian's great-grandfather and grandfather with him and asked him if he would share any documents, photos or stories he might have. He said he would ask around his relatives. And then, everything went silent.
What a wonderful surprise! Ian sent me an email, almost four years since we last corresponded. He attached a collection of photos; they were of a younger Arthur looking very dapper and smart in a variety of outfits, some with Kenneth as a child, including one with his wife. Finally, to be able to put a face to a name. I am very touched. These moments mean a lot to me. Because they remind me that these folks aren't just names on yellowed paper, but real people. I am very glad that Kenneth survived and the clan has grown. If he hadn't, Arthur's bloodline would have ended that tragic November night in 1943. He was only 50 years old.
Darryl, Arthur's grand nephew, reached out to me on Facebook. There seems to be a confusion as to Arthur's Chinese name. The trial papers have him down as 'Tham Ying Hong.' From my correspondence with Ian, I understood that it should have been 'Tham Yin Hong,' so thought it was recorded incorrectly.
Darryl shares more background information with me and a press clipping dating back to when his great-grandfather, Tham Heng Wan, passed. It is an acknowledgement following the funeral in 1920. Apparently Tham Heng Wan was a Justice of the Peace in the Singapore colonial administration.
Darryl's grandfather is Tham Ying Yin, younger brother to Arthur. Tham Ying Yin was also the son-in-law of Koh Eng Watt, who had been Justice of the Peace of Labuan (Sabah) in British Borneo. Tham Ying Yin had married Koh Chit Lee, Koh Eng Watt's second daughter.
All these various relations only cement my initial hunch that this was a prominent family, who were, following what Darryl has shared, well connected. In an interesting twist, Koh Eng Watt's wife was a Japanese lady by the name of Yamada Ofuni. Koh Eng Watt passed away on 8 March 1937; his widow on 13 April 1941. I cannot help but wonder whether, if Yamada had lived, what treatment she or her family would have received during the Japanese Occupation of Labuan, which began in January 1942? For more information on this branch of the family, please see Rojak Librarian's blog on the graves of Koh Eng Watt and Yamada Ofuni.