Crime Culture History

Botak Chin was a notorious gangster. But why did some call him a Malaysian Robin Hood?

If we were to ask you to name some famous gangsters in Malaysia off the top of your head, chances are you’re gonna give us names like Kalimuthu or Botak Chin.

Sure, Botak Chin’s known as one of the most notorious gangsters in Malaysia, and as a gangster, it’s probably not surprising to you that he’s done some less-than-good stuff in his life. But the thing is: do we really know the life of Botak Chin apart from what we generally know on gangsters?

Well, because we’re really kepoh here at Cilisos, we did some research on him, just because we can. And we found some rather surprising things about him, one of which is that…

 

Surprising fact #1: His name wasn’t actually Botak Chin

Image from Wikipedia

With a name like Botak Chin, you’d think that his last name was Chin, but that’s not true. His full name was actually Wong Swee Chin, so rather than it being a surname, Chin was just his given name – we’ll talk more about how the nickname Botak Chin came about later.

So once upon a time in 1951, Wong was born to a relatively poor family with 10 siblings – people back in the day can really get busy without the distraction of TV and iPhones, you know. He dropped out of secondary school at 15 to work at a wet market to support his family.

He was said to have spent a lot of time away from home. And in the 1960s, Malaysia was kinda overrun with Chinese gangs, so it’s not surprising that Wong found himself mixing with the wrong crowd and end up joining a Chinese gang called Gang 360.

“Botak Chin could never be anything else. He was born to become a criminal.” – Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Kenny Woodworth, as quoted from NST

While he was in the gang, he was said to have been very impressed by the array of firearms that the gang possessed. As such, when he turned 18 in 1969, instead of getting a driving license like others who just turned 18, he went and got his own gun, a .22 caliber revolver.

Original image from Pinterest

Once he had that sweet, sweet revolver in his possession, he didn’t keep it in a lock box. No, no, instead, the ownership of that gun drove him to commit things that he got famous for: robberies. He apparently formed his own gang with a couple of pals and went on a spree of robberies, committing eight in just one month.

Somehow, while he was doing all these things, he managed to attain the street name Botak Chin, except…

 

 

Surprising fact #2: He wasn’t actually botak

Look at that full head of hair. Image from FMT

In all the photos we found find of him online, Wong had a good head of hair that could drive even Prince William jealous. So why was he called Botak Chin? Was it because his chin was botak? Well, apparently, it was an acronym of Bantu Orang Tak Ada Kerja, as in helping those without jobs. So you know, Botak Chin didn’t exactly mean bald.

You see, Wong actually did end up getting arrested…for the the first time, and sentenced to seven years in jail after the spree of robberies in 1969, but was released for good behavior after five years. But jailtime apparently didn’t deter him, because Wong returned to gangster life in 1975 and managed to purchase a whole new arsenal of weapons and ammunition from Thailand gunrunners.

“Botak Chin loved guns. Also, the schemer and visionary that he is, he seriously believed that power lies at the barrel of a gun. Meaning, by having more guns he would have absolute power.” – ASP Woodworth, as quoted from NST

However, while doing all that, he apparently had somewhat of a kind heart somewhere inside him, and other than Botak Chin, he also earned the moniker of a modern-day Robin Hood.

Original images from OrangKata, Radio Times

See, he didn’t keep all of the cash he robbed to himself so he could buy more guns and stuff, Wong had apparently also donated a significant sum of his gains to the poor. A known tale of such a benevolent act was when he allegedly gave an old ice-cream seller a few thousand ringgit from his own pocket and told the seller to go home and relax.

“He was a genius in his own way. He was small-sized but if he set his mind to do something, nobody could have stopped him.” – Former prison administrator Abu Bakar Juah, as quoted from The Star

His actions were so notorious that he caught the attention of the cops, but he kept running away from their clutches. As such…

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Surprising fact #3: He needed a special squad of cops to pursue him

S Kulasingam. Image from The Patriots

Batman has Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, and much like any other villain, there will always be a hero to stop them, and in Wong’s case, it was Deputy Superintendent (DSP) S. Kulasingam.

And the cops put together a special hit squad to go after Wong, led by Kulasingam himself – the squad was dubbed…the Magnificent 12. In their pursuit, the Magnificent 12 managed to gun down seven of Wong’s men, though they didn’t get to Wong himself. That kinda pissed off Wong to the point where he planned to assassinate Kulasingam in an ambush.

Well, the ambush worked in injuring Kulasingam, but the DSP didn’t die from it.

“The media dubbed us ‘The Magnificent 12’ but I prefer to call ourselves the ‘Dirty Dozen’ because for two weeks after Tuan Kula was hit, the team worked day and night without bathing, shaving or changing our clothes in order to get information on where Botak Chin was hiding.” – ASP Woodworth, as quoted from NST

In 1976, the squad tracked Wong and his gang to a sawmill in Jalan Ipoh, KL, and cordoned off the area so that no one could get in or out. They proceeded to engage in a shootout with the gang, and despite the gang’s firepower, they couldn’t defeat the squad.

Image from MalaysiaGazette

Subsequently, a few of Wong’s gang was shot to death, and Wong himself was arrested.

While the man had a code of ethics where he wouldn’t rob the poor or endanger the lives of children, he was ultimately still a killer, as he had killed quite a number of men, including security guards and police officers, during his time as a robber. As such, he was given a death sentence in the court hearing, and was hanged at Pudu Prison in 1981.

Before he was hanged though, Wong apparently went under assessment from Dr. Mahadevan Mahalingam, who used to be one of Malaysia’s most popular psychiatrists. And Dr. Mahadevan seemed to have found Wong to be a disciplined fella who was just misguided. In fact, before he died, Wong allegedly wanted to donate his organs, but that didn’t happen because he didn’t sign a consent form before he was sent to the gallows.

After that, there’s not much said about him, and he’s kinda become a legend as one of the most notorious and dangerous criminals in Malaysia. But if you think that this article was interesting…

 

There’s gonna be a whole book written about him

We’ve seen a lot of biographies or autobiographies about some famous local heroes, but it’s pretty rare to see an illustrated biography, much less one about a criminal as dangerous as Wong. Wanted: Botak Chin is essentially a biography written by journalist Danny Lim and illustrated by Michelle Lee. You may recognize the publisher, Matahari Books, for another illustrated book called The Malay Tale of the Pig King.

“The story’s interesting and I enjoy working on local content. I was just really amazed at how big of a deal he was back in the day.” – Lee, in an interview with Cilisos

If you were as intrigued as we were while you were reading this story, imagine getting to see it in pictures – we imagine it’d be a more vivid experience. As of now, we were told that the book is not out on the shelves yet and will only be published in February 2021. However, if you’re interested in the book, why don’t you get your name printed inside the book while you’re at it?

GIF from Tumblr

Matahari Books is currently holding a crowdfunding campaign for the book, where as long as you donate RM50 to the campaign, you’ll have the opportunity of seeing your own name in the book.

“We want to encourage a sense of ownership and community among our readers.” – Matahari Books founder Amir Muhammad, in an interview with Cilisos

Criminals are usually a topic of interest for a lot of people, like Bonnie and Clyde. But if you happen to find Botak Chin’s life interesting and wanna emulate him, you should probably also remember how the whole thing ended for him…literally. So, you know, if you wanna do good, maybe just emulate his ways of charity and end it there.

 

 

 

 

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