life stories

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Real life stories

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My book has been published! Read an excerpt here....

My book of memoirs 'I Thought You Should Know' has just been published and is now available for sale through, Barnes and Noble and your local bookstore.

 I was born in the Dutch-Indies (now called Indonesia) on the island of Java, on June 3 1941. My father was with the KNIL Cavalry. The Dutch Indies was then a Dutch Colony. 

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, our lives would drastically change. 

The Government of Holland declared war on Japan and the Dutch Indies were soon taken over by Japan. My father was taken prisoner by the Japanese and shipped with thousands of men to Burma to build a railroad track through the jungle; he died of exhaustion and malnutrition. My Uncle was killed on December 14, 1941, after their submarine had launched six torpedoes and sunk four Japanese vessels. Their submarine, the 016 then ran on a mine and all but one man was killed. My mother went immediately to Surabaya to be with her sister, who was pregnant with her second child.

She was never able to return to her home in Bandoeng. In November 1942, the Japanese put all women and children of European blood in so called 'protected' camps. Daily beatings, overcrowding, forced labor, starvation and seeing their friends dying, gradually deteriorated their lives. After the war, returning to Holland, their struggle continued. This group of women and men found their Countrymen and their Government totally ignorant toward their horrors, which they had experienced as Prisoners of war in the Dutch East Indies.

As of today, Holland still does not take any responsibility toward the prisoners of war who suffered immensely in Japanese prison camps and those who lost their lives.

Never did Holland pay any compensation to the victims of this horrible war. What is the difference between the Jews and the gypsies from Holland? The only difference is that they were prisoners of war of the Nazis.
This story will tell about what we endured in those camps and later when we returned to Holland.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Letter from Queen Wilhelmina 1945

Before I begin with my story about my mother and I returning to Holland, from Indonesia , I like to comment about a letter my mother received from Queen Wilhelmina from Holland.I wondered why not many letters like this have surfaced. I remembered that my mother once had told me that she had this letter, although she never showed it to me. She told me at the time that they had been so mad when they received that letter.Lots of women had ripped it up. But I found this letter in a pouch tucked away for many years. I found it when my mother passed away in 2003.This is the letter which was in that pouch with many more letters .

Here follows the translation:
                                                                                  The Hague, November 21 1945

To the old-interned who were in Japanese Women Camp,

It is with great pleasure, after numerous tries, to have the ability to let you know, that I have always thought about you.
All the time during these terrible years, which are now behind us.( Oh yes, really???You damn well know we are caught in the middle off this New War) my thoughts as well as those of thousands in occupied Holland and outside of here, always were thinking about you.
All the time my thoughts were with them who had to carry this heavy load. Occupied by these ruthless enemies. I know now, that my worries about you all were not injustice at all. Also I know that your courage and persevering in the midst of all this were unparalleled.
I am extremely proud for the example the women in Indonesia were for us. You have showed the world how courageous you were and showed the world how big and proud you make your Country.
We commemorate with great sadness and admiration, those who offered their lives.
I thank you all for what you have done for our Kingdom
                                               Signed: Wilhelmina
Queen of the Netherlands.

The most hypocritical letter my mother ever received. The Queen knew that we were in the midst of a Civil War, we were not free. We were still in extreme danger, it was not over for us... These were words and only words written on a piece of paper. Why not write that she was sorry that we were still caught in the midst of this new war, and sorry that our suffering was not over jet? Why not say that Holland would do anything to make it up to them, for all their losses.

  After world war 2 the Dutch were caught in this Civil War, between the Dutch and the Extremists who were fighting for a Republic Indonesia.For five more years the fighting went on..
The UN security Counsel demanded release of the Republican government, and independence for Indonesia. All Europeans had to leave this country, they so dearly loved.
The Netherlands tried to shovel this under the carpet for years.

We arrived in Holland with only some clothes on our backs.It was the Dutch Government in exile(London)on behalf of The Dutch-Indies, who declared war to Japan, together with the Allied. The Dutch-Indies was forced to fight Japan, for which they were not ready and were not equipped with sufficient weapons. The Dutch civilians suffered immensely.

This quotation from de Stichting Vervolgingsslachtoffers Jappenkamp(the Foundation of victims of Japanese camps)
Never did Holland pay any compensation to the victims from this horrible war. What is the difference between the Jews and Gypsies from Holland who were prisoners of the Nazi's? . Holland does not take any responsibility towards the Prisoners of War who suffered mentally and physical in Japanese Prison Camps and those who lost their lives in the war and during the Bersiap time.
The war declared to Japan by The Dutch reign of Wilhelmina, is responsible for which their country men and women suffered all those years in Japanese Prison Camps. The Netherlands turned their backs on us. The Dutch Government knew that the Dutch citizens and military were in these Prison Camps and that their position was horrible. This is known from radio broadcasts and proclamations from H.M. Queen Wilhelmina 1940-1945.
December 7 1941 (RADIO ORANJE)

.....We did not have to think twice, for one moment to declare war and help fight our confederates, whose business is our business.....

October 17 1942 (RADIO ORANGE)

"Speaking about coming together as one Nation, our thoughts are with our oppressed and suffering countrymen in greeter Netherlands under the "Tropics........"

December 31 1943 (RADIO ORANJE)

"Countrymen and International Relations"
First of all and everybody in the Dutch-Indies...... your loyalty and firmness will without hesitation be rewarded, and will be well deserved, as Freedom comes, which will come rest assured!"

What reward? When????? The War is over for more than 60 years, do we have to wait another 60 years, or until everybody is dead???

After the Capitulation of Japan: we who were in internment camps' lost every thing, our bank accounts, our houses, our businesses. We only had left the clothes we worn, all those years in prison. That's all we had left.

Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand and Norway paid their war victims of the Japanese Occupation, with amounts of Euro 18.000.- per victim or heir in 2000 and 2001. It is about time that the Dutch Government follows suit.My mother did not even get the wages from my father which The Netherlands still owed him.
It is time you take responsibility after more then 60 years.

The Prison gates opened for us, but nothing was done to help victims cope with the mental and physical damage done to them, caused by the horrendous torture and suffering they received by their captors the Japanese, whilst imprisoned. They felt abandon and so alone, when they were send to the Netherlands, from the country they loved: The Dutch-Indies.
They arrived in the Netherlands with absolute nothing!

The Foundation is working hard to try to get justice done, and for a justified compensation.

The Foundation is asking people to tell each other, and please sign up.

For more information go to this website:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Leaving Indonesia March 30,1946

It was February 1946, and my mother was recuperating from Malaria,malnutrition,edema, etc. in Bandoeng in the Java Center. She had been so sick, and now she received the bad news from the Red Cross that her husband had not survived the Hell at the Burma-Railroad tracks.How much more can a human being take.But the will of living is so strong, she had a child to think about.
One day a gentlemen came to visit her at the Java Center in Bandoeng. He introduced himself as Ecko Veenstra. He told my mother that he and her husband Klaas had been very close. They had worked side by side on the rail road tracks in Thailand. They had been together for three months in Rin-Tin the worst camp on the railroad tracks in Thailand. This camp was later closed because the Japanese were afraid of this camp,too many men died in this camp, and the Japs were afraid that they would contract these diseases, so they closed this camp.My father (Klaas) and Echo Veenstra were moved to Kuie, where my father died of exhaustion and malnutrition.He also told her that her family was informed that he had found her and that they were overjoyed to hear that she and her daughter had survived the prison camps.
He offered my mother to take care of us, and liked to know when she would like to return to the Netherlands. He had connections, so she only had to get stronger and he would book a passage on a ship.So it happened that we were able to leave Indonesia on the 30th of March 1946.
We had to get on a train to take us from Bandoeng to Batavia. I did not like to go on a train again. I was so scared of trains, because every time the Japanese moved us to another Camp we had to go on these trains, on which you always nearly suffocated. There were no windows in these trains, but this time my mother said it was nice to go on a train. I was not convinced, so I screamed and cried, that I did not want  to go. Please mommy not on a train, I do not like trains.This was again very traumatic for me and my mother, but finally I was seated on this train that would take us to Batavia , where we arrived at Tandjong Priok the habor of Batavia. There was this big ship docked. It was so high, and again I was so afraid. I was five years old. The name of the ship was ms.Boschfontein.

On  top of the gangplank are my mom and me.On this ship I would meet a man, who I asked if he would like to become my father.

We boarded  and got a hammock in the hold of the ship,with hundreds of women and children.We arrived in Ataka , where we had to go on land. Ataka is in Egypt. We had to board a train again. I was so suspicious. Why did we had to go on a train again??I had such a good time on the ship, there was lots of food.My mother told me, because we are  going to Holland and because  it is very cold there, we have to get some warm winter clothes. I had no idea what that meant. But she said I was getting new shoes and a new dress, so I was getting excited.The train went through the dessert,and stopped in front of two big hangars. There were flags and welcome signs greeting us. We were allowed to pick out a coat,a dress, shoes, socks, underwear, mittens, (which I had no idea what they were for.) My mother told me, your hands will be so cold, that you need socks for them.They also had a band for us and so much food. It was delicious.We stayed there the whole day. The train took us back to board the ship again and now we would be off to Holland.Where ever that was. All I knew was that we had to wear lots of clothes, when we arrived there.

We were at sea again.. For three more weeks. Some days we had drills. We had to put on these jackets, which scared me, because we were told that they would keep you afloat, in case the ship would sink. What did they mean?? Do we have to go in that dark water?? Every time we had this drill I was scared to death. One day I told my mother that I had found a daddy. What do you mean, you have met a Daddy? You know your daddy is in the clouds in the sky. I said yes I know, but some of the kids here have daddy's, so I went to look for one.And I found this nice man,because he told me that I do not have to be scared anymore, when we have to put these bubble jackets on, because he will be holding my hand when we are in the water, he will open the jacket for me, and in the pockets of this jacket we will find lots of chocolate. You cannot tell anybody about the chocolate, because it's a secret. I like him very much and I asked him if he liked to be my daddy. He said that he first has to talk to you, because it cannot be his decision only. Mommy you will like him, he is so nice. My mother did not trust this at all and told me to point him out. So I took her by the hand and went to look for him." There he is " I said and pointed him out to her. I jelled at him that I had brought my mother to see if she liked him too, so he could be my daddy. And that's how their love affair began. They both had gone through so much during the War years. He had not been home for six long years. His ship the ms. Boschfontein had been transporting pilots and soldiers and ammunition during the war in the pacific.He told my mother that often he thought he would not survive, but luck had been on his side. They had just left Pearl Harbour when it was bombed, by the Japanese, and he often thought that the ship would run on a mine.My mother had gone through lots of heart ache herself for four years and had nearly died.I had the best time of my life on board of this ship. My mother and my "Dad"  and me often walked on deck.I was so proud I had found myself a Daddy.My mother told me that I right away named him my Daddy. We also had our dinner on deck.There were all kinds of things to do for kids. A couple of times the bells from the ship would go off. That meant we had to put our life jackets on. I was not afraid anymore, and could not wait to go in the water, to open the jacket for the chocolates.Sometimes the engines would stop,the ships bells would go off, that was the signal , that  a mine was sighted.Soon we went through the Suez canal, we saw land again. After that it began to get colder and colder. I was allowed to wear my coat and the socks on my hands. That was funny. My fingers would tingle.Soon we were in the North Sea and arrived in Amsterdam. A small bus would take us to the house of her parents in Kolhorn. It is a small village in the North of Holland.On the 25th of April 1946, my new life in The Netherlands began.

My next story will be about my life in Kolhorn, where I went to school and where I loved it. I also will talk about the struggles and hard times my mother faced .

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trying to survive.

Just got back from a beautiful Holiday to France and Holland. I promised that I would continue writing about our years in Japanese camp , and our return back to Holland.

It was a very sad day. The year was 1946. We had survived not only the Japanese camps but also the Bersiap. When we were liberated we had to be protected by the Japs (of all people) we had to stay in the Prison Camps because outside the camps it was too dangerous. We were free, but what was the meaning of that word?? Our freedom was only from the Japanese tyrant's. Freedom to us was something very unreal. Here in Indonesia we were in the midst of a new War. Many Europeans were in this period not safe. We had to stay in the Prison Camps, and ironically, the Japanese our former tyrants had to protect us from the Indonesian resistance.(The extremists) We were guarded by Netherlands ambonese, who only had steel rods,taken from beds, knives, and a few stolen riffles. It was a life threatening situation in Camp. Dutch troops arrived from Holland to fight the extremists. The combat outside the camps was fierce. Shootings and bombings everyday. The extremists were hiding outside the camps in the little Indonesian villages.Life in Camp was a little improved, since we no longer were Prisoners of War of the Japanese and we had a little more to eat. But now we were in danger again.We hated the Japanese and now they were our protectors. We were out of control, we spit at them when we passed them. We did no longer have to bow for them, oh what a good feeling was that, is what my mother told me.The Japanese tried to be friendly and sometimes touched my hair, because I was so blond. My mother told them to keep their stinking yellow hands of my daughters hair. You yellow beast. They could not understand her anyways.They knew that there former tyrants had to protect them from the dangers, but my mother said she could not help herself she hated them so much.
 Nobody in Holland had any idea that it was still so bad in Indonesia. One day the Japanese had fled , and the extremists entered the camp. They slaughtered every women and child. My mother only  told me once that she and I were hiding under a bamboo bed because the extremists were shooting at us.

My husband Ruud, me and my sister Sietske and my brother Leendert went to visit my mothers youngest sister Anneke in Kolhorn, when we were in Holland this year.My mother had told her sister that she and her sister were raped by these Japanese while in Moentilan in that horrible camp.She had promised never to talk about it.My mother and her sister felt such shame and dirty, and in those days you never talked about these things.
I was so shocked when I heard this. How come my mother never talked about this? Was this war trauma?? I am still trying to come to grips with this terrible knowledge.What an emotional day we had. I think we never cried so much. It was good for my aunt to get this off her chest.How sad for my mother and my aunt that they never were able to talk about this, they so desperately needed help.In Holland everybody was still so busy with them selves. Life continues and it is better to leave things behind and try to forget.But still what happened should never be forgotten. We have to make sure that our children never will never be in these situations, ever! It should never happen again! To live with hatred and resentment is so bad, specially for your health and your mind. All around in Holland, when we arrived from Indonesia,was talk about the German occupation. How they had suffered. They had no idea what their fellow countrymen had endured. How hard it was for them not being able to talk about what happened over there. Over there seemed like a long way from Holland. You were in Paradise, they said, compared to us.
 The hatred for the Japanese was always there with my mother.She hated everything what had to do with Japan. She passed away in 2003, she was never able to forget and was not able to leave that period of her life behind her.She was never able to forget her first husband Klaas.Although she had a very good life with her second husband.How my mother has spared me from all of this. I always asked questions, she always told me that Indonesia was Paradise on earth, which was true, she never lied about that. But she never told me how Paradise in Indonesia was changed into Hell by the Japanese occupancy.

Oh, how this beautiful country changed in the hands of the Japanese occupation.
My mother and I were finally able to leave this hell in 1946, but the fighting still continued five more long years after World War 2 had ended. Many young men lost their lives. The UN Security Council demands release of the Republican government, and independence for Indonesia.
 August 17 1950 Indonesia is fully independent.If only The Netherlands had agreed in the first place to give Indonesia their independence, this might not have happened.
300.000 Dutch, and 920000 Dutch Forces left Indonesia.Many had lost their lives. Why??

The soldiers were wondering: why had they been in this Hell!!!

I think Holland is still ashamed of these happenings, and has been trying to shovel this under the carpet.How come the Netherlands  never paid compensation for all the losses of their fellow countrymen? Their excuse was that The Dutch-Indies after their loss was bankrupt. Indonesia was a Dutch Colony for 300 years, it belonged to Holland and now all of a sudden we did not belong??A nice letter from the Queen Wilhelmina did not help the old-internees from Japanese Camps and all the young men who died.Shame on you! All other countries did. The Australians, the English, the Americans,what kind of excuse do you have Holland?

My husband Ruud and myself, my sister and Ruud's sister Carla, went to visit the Monuments in Arnhem in July 2010. Here some pictures. It was very emotional.
My fathers name K.van der Wal.

Very emotional!

In memory of the Dutch victims in Japanese women camps, the Dutch Indies..1941-1945

The infamous Japanese rail road tracks through the jungle of Thailand

My father was in Rin Tin and in Kinsayok, He died in Kuye where he was buried by his comrades and after the war his remains were transferred to Kanchanaburi, where he is resting in Peace, with his other fallen comrades.

When life through terror becomes your enemy, death arrives as a good friend.
Lest we forget!

Next story will be about my mother and I returning to Holland .Mom your story had to be told.You never were able to do it, so I do it for you. I love you!!
It pains me that you never have seen these monuments. Maybe it would have given you some peace.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I like to know if anybody knows these people?

I am inserting some pictures from my mother, from her time in Indonesia. I like to know if somebody out there would recognize somebody on these pictures.Have they survived the Japanese Camps?

Klaas van der Wal on the left, my mom Sietske on the right.
Sietske my mom third from the left, my father Klaas on the right.
Eke van Driel-Sijtsma and Elizabethvan Vaas-Thiel, Soerabaja.
My father Klaas van der Wal, second from the left. Who are the others? Did they survive the Japanese prison camps?

My mother Sietske on the right in front of her house, Tjikoerailaan 7, Bandoeng. Who are the others? My mom was 5 months pregnant .

My father on the left, Klaas van der Wal. Who is the other man? This pic. is taken when they still were in Holland. This is Leeuwarden.

If anybody recognize somebody, please let me know. You can e-mail me:
or leave a message on my blog.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Letters from Queen Wilhelmina,

While my mother and I were in the Java Care Center in Bandoeng she received a letter from  Queen Wilhelmina.
It is written in Dutch,

                                                                                                 The Haque, November 21` 1945

To the old-interned in Japanese Women Camp,

It is with great pleasure, after numerous tries, to have the ability to let you know that I have always thought about you.

All the time during these terrible years, which are now behind us, my thoughts, as well as those of thousands in occupied Holland and outside of here, always were thinking of you.

Every time my thoughts were with them who had to carry this heavy load. Occupied by these ruthless enemies. I know now, that my worries about you all were not injustice at all. Also I know that your courage and persevering in the midst of all this were unparalleled.

I am extremely proud for the example the women in Indonesia were for us. You have showed at the world how courageous you were and showed the world how big and proud you make your Country.

We commemorate with great sadness and admiration, those who offered their lives.

I thank you all for what you have done for our Kingdom.

signed by:                               Wilhelmina    Queen of The Netherlands

When my mother received this letter, she did not know , that her husband had not survived. She was checking all the lists which came in from the Red Cross.
Soon after this letter she received word that he had died in that terrible place, on the Burma Railroad track.
How sad that must have been for her, she had just barely made it herself. She had been so sick, they told her  that it was a miracle she had survived..
When she was in the Java Care Centre in Bandoeng she received a letter from a friend from my father, who was with him for three months, in Rintin in Thailand.He said in the letter that he was there with my father and the other Dutch from the Cavalry. He  also told my mother that he had a few possessions from my father, which he had promised Reverend J.C. Hamel, if he would survive he would make sure that my mother would get these. It was my fathers wedding ring, which he had hidden all the time and some photographs who hardly were recognizable, and my fathers wallet.
The pic. my father must have looked at, over and over again.

It's truly unbelievable that I now hold his wallet in my hands, after so many years.The wallet still had Japanese bills in it.If this wallet only could talk, it probably has an unbelievable story to tell.

Thanks Reverend Hamel, for being there for my father.

Reverend Hamel,
Thank you so much for making sure that my mother got back the wedding ring, and the other few possessions. Thanks to Mr. E.Veenstra, who had promised you to hand these in person to my mother if he survived.
Reverend Hamel I have to let you know that Mr. E.Veenstra survived that hell in Burma.
I am the daughter on that picture(Thea with my mother) which is almost unrecognizable.And I am oh so sorry that I only now find out that you survived that place as well, and wrote a book.
My mother would never talk about that time; it must have been too painful. She never knew about the last resting place they gave my father Klaas van der Wal: in Kanchanaburi, and I always keep wondering,"How is that possible?" she would have been so happy.
Thank you again Reverend Hamel, and Mr. Veenstra.

Here follows the letter from Mr. E.A.Veenstra.

This letter was written to my mother on February 26 1946. Soon after that we left for Holland. In 1947 my mother received a condolence  letter from Queen Wilhelmina.

It says:

                                                                                                       The Hague. The Loo, May 9, 1947

                                                                                                        Palace Noordeinde

  Dear Mrs. S.v.d.Wal-Sijtsma

After your husband Klaas was taken prison by the Japanese , he passed away on September 18 1943, in Kui,Burma. Deeply affected by your loss, I would like to let You and the rest of your family know, that I  am
sending my hearty sympathy. May his offer to our Country and the whole of the Kingdom give us a better and happier future.



It is really sad that I had to find all these things after my mother and stepfather passed away.I found lots of things from my Stepfather too. He was in the Pacific in World War 11, on a ship  the Boschfontein, for 6 long years. I will write about that on my next blog and also about my mother and I arriving in Holland.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is it ever going to stop????

Today May 24, Victoria Day, another soldier killed in Afghanistan. I feel so sad. He was only 26 years old. The age of my father when he died a Prisoner of War, by the Japanese, in 1943.
I guess as long as there are these fanatic's in the world, good people have to die, to make it a safer and a better place for us to live in." They are giving their tomorrow for our today."

They shall not grow old,
As we that left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years distress
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them,

This  was written for the soldiers who died in 1941-1945. Now it is 2010, and the beat goes on!

While I am writing this story, firecrackers are going of, to celebrate Summer is here. I can't stand the sound of firecrackers they sound like gunshots and bombs going off. I hate it. Wish they could celebrate it some what different. It is not even dark yet so you cannot even see the fireworks.When I was a little girl and we had just come back from Indonesia, my first experience to see firework was in Zandvoort in The Netherlands. I screamed my head off,I was so scared they had to take me away from it. I still don't like it. And I have to say:"What a waste of money"!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Monique found out a little bit more about her grandfather Klaas van der Wal

Monique our daughter wrote an e-mail to Neil Macperson, and received an e-mail back from Andrew Snow TBRC. Thank you Monique.
This is the information she received:
Andrew Snow
Thailand-Burma Railway Centre
Thailand (

Hi Monique

I have searched our records for information on your grandfather Klaas van der Wal and have attached the records we have available.
Scan of Kui Yea Cemetery where he was originally buried
Scan of Kui Yea work Camp
Copy of Dutch burial records

TBRC POW Death record giving his death details and Cemetery site now.
Picture of his headstone.

I am afraid that we do not have details on his movements on the railway, before his death. So I hope that what we found gives you some information you were looking for. If you have anymore questions please ask and I will try to help you.

All the best,


This is where he was laid to rest and from where his remains were transferred to Kanchanaburi.My father's grave is the third row letter K, fifth from the right.
Kui Yea work camp.


His POW death record.

TBRC Pow death record. It shows details where his grave is in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

                                              For every sleeper laid,a life was lost
                                              For every life lost, a sleeper was laid.
                                              Sleep in Peace, the crosses you bear
                                              Over 90.000 crosses, remember well!

And so they went, day by day, week by week, month by month, to the bridge on the River Kwai. With sudden stubbornness, unyielding to impossible odds, struggling to perish or to do the formidable, building the bridge for the twin line of steel. Winding through hills, plains and steaming jungle, two hundred and fifty miles long, resting on sleepers, resting on the memory of perished, working to death on the Burma Railroad.

My father's first resting place,Kuie at the site of the railway tracks, after the war his remains were transferred to Kanchanaburi.

Never look a Jap in the eye 
It's likely to trigger your time to die
Nowhere to hide and nowhere to run,
The remorseless fanatic with a gun
Cruelty and starvation they simply struggled on
All hope of any kind of future long gone
Laboring on the railway in the heat
Backbreaking and blistered feet
So was their lot, those years ago,
Their agonies! We will never know.

Win Rainer.

    My father at the Dago Falls in Bandoeng, 1940.

    This beautiful country Indonesia. Paradise on Earth, so peaceful, was changed in violence, cruelty and into Hell by the Japanese.
    My father was taken prison and transported to Thailand, where it was the beginning of a terrible ordeal in a"Green jungle of ' HELL'. The Japanese were planning to build a railroad-line, through the jungle.The ordeal had already started when they had to board a ship in Batavia and were taken to Singapore.