Botak Chin - Malaysia's Robin Hood ? Part 1

Wong Swee Chin aka Botak Chin is probably Malaysia's most notorious gangster in the 70s. Botak Chin, the self styled modern-day Robin Hood, was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1951 to a family of 10 siblings. As his father was a retiree who worked with the Malayan Railways, they lived at the Malaysian Railway quarters next to the Caltex station in Jalan Ipoh.

This is the story of Botak Chin:

Botak Chin studied at a Chinese vernacular primary school and then went on to attend the Methodist Boys’ Secondary School in Sentul up to Form 3 (the Lower Certificate of Education), after which, he quit school.

Having left school at age 15, Botak Chin started working as a fishmonger at Jalan Tun Ismail (formally Maxwell Road) market. After his mother's death, he often spent time away from home preferring to live with his friends. Away from his father's watchful eye, he then got involved with the local hoodlums where he was initiated into committing petty crimes. This, in turn, led to him joining his first gang; the 360 gang (Sak Pak Lok).

At the age of 18, in 1969, when he illegally obtained his first firearm (a .22 revolver), he formed his own gang and proceeded with robbing sprees. This led to his first arrest, conviction and prison sentence. He then spent a few years in prison.

However, within a few months upon his release from prison in 1974, he formed a new gang with Ng Cheng Wong (aka Ah Wong), Beh Kok Chin (aka Pangkor Chai) and Teh Bok Lay (aka Seh Chai). A month prior to this, he went to Thailand to purchase guns. Then on June 2 1975, readily armed, the gang hit an illegal gambling den in Sentul and made off with RM5,800. With the proceeds from that robbery, Botak Chin "reinvested in his business" - he again went to Thailand to acquire even more firearms and ammunition - he apparently bought another 8 pieces of firearms and 100 bullets.

The gang used a vacant tin mine in Kepong as their shooting range, targeting stray dogs. There were also reports that Botak Chin used to openly display his gun at the Sentul market but nobody dared offend him for fear of being made a victim.

On July 20 1975, now with even more "tools of trade" - the new firearms - the gang became more ambitious, they robbed a bank in Jalan Imbi and fled with RM95,000. They then gunned down several mahjong players inside a Chinese temple in Jalan Kolam Ayer and made off with RM10,000. This was big money in those days, as a double storey house in Subang cost only about RM15,000, then.

Because of his many robberies, gun battles with the police and feuds with rival gangs, Botak Chin needed more firearms and ammunition, possibly to enlarge his "army" and strengthen his position. To easily obtain these weapons, he targeted policemen next - in one case, he attacked 3 policemen and took their pistols.

It is also understood that Botak Chin made frequent trips to Thailand not only to procure illegal firearms and but also to obtain protective talisman (called tangkal) from Siamese shamans (locally called bomoh siam or bomoh Thai) practicing black magic.

It is believed that the reason he managed to successfully evade capture, survive and escape from numerous gun battles with the police is because he wears a very powerful Phra Pidta tangkal obtained from a bomoh siam.

In one epic incident in Segambut Dalam involving a shootout with the police, he managed to slip away unharmed, despite his car being riddled with bullets. This led to many rumours claiming that the tangkal he was wearing made him invulnerable (kebal) to bullets, knives and even poison. Some even believed that he could become invisible, at will, thus escaping unseen.

Botak Chin is fearless and determined in pursuing his goals. On 25 September, although one of his right hand men, Chau Kuan (aka Ah Kuan) was shot dead at a sundry shop at Jalan Kovil Hilir, this did not cripple his gang activities or demoralise his will.

Their biggest hit was on Oct 26 1975, where the gang fled with RM218,000 after gunning down a security guard delivering money to a horse racing club. With his share of approximately RM40,000 from the robbery, he again went to Thailand. This time he purchased even more weapons adding his arsenal to 19 guns, 5 hand grenades and 1,000 bullets.

Business was looking good for Botak Chin and his men.

To be Part 2

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