MRT commuter slams man for refusing to give up priority seat; man says he was unwell

A part of the photo uploaded by Ms Celine Chia on Facebook, which showed Mr Syn Kok Meng seated in the reserved seat.
A part of the photo uploaded by Ms Celine Chia on Facebook, which showed Mr Syn Kok Meng seated in the reserved seat. PHOTO: CELINE CHIA/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A passenger has publicly slammed her fellow commuter for hogging the priority seat on the MRT on Thursday (Oct 29) evening.

Retail firm general manager Celine Chia's Facebook post describing her encounter with the man, whom she uploaded a photo of, went viral.

The post was shared nearly 9,000 times before it was taken down on Friday afternoon.

Earlier in the morning, Ms Chia, 32, told The Straits Times she had boarded the train on the North-South Line at Dhoby Ghaut station at around 7pm.

The man was already seated, and had allegedly refused to give up his seat when a woman, who was struggling with a baby boy strapped to her chest, got on at Orchard station.

Ms Chia claimed she had "politely" asked him if he could offer the seat to the woman, to which he replied: "It's my choice and I am not giving up my seat to her."

What followed was an awkward exchange of words during which the man said he was tired after work. It ended with what she described as "dead silence in the cabin". The man eventually alighted at Khatib station.

As it turns out, the man, accountant Syn Kok Meng, was feeling unwell and said he had a heart condition due to a weight issue.

"I'm shocked at how this issue has been blown out of proportion - I'm usually a shy person who will give up his seat to those in need. But I had worked late and was feeling tired and unwell last night," Mr Syn, who is in his 30s, told The Straits Times.

He explained that the woman with the baby had boarded the train along with her elderly mother and husband. After initially securing a seat next to him, the woman then gave it up to her mother instead.

Claiming that Ms Chia had continued to provoke him by referencing his weight, Mr Syn said he then kept his head bowed to pray instead of speaking to her further.

"This is cyber-bullying and I suspect there was some malice involved, but I'm not intending to pursue the matter," said Mr Syn, adding that he had sent a message via Facebook to Ms Chia requesting that she take down her post.

On her decision to post a photo of Mr Syn, Ms Chia said she had already done her part to convince him to "be gracious and do the right thing".

"Since he can be so blatantly inconsiderate, I thought there's nothing wrong with putting up his picture," she added.

She said she had received many private messages of support from people who praised her for what she did.

The woman with the baby, who turned out to be Ms Chia's secondary school friend, also commented on the Facebook post.

"Thank you for speaking up... really appreciate what you did there!" wrote Ms Clare Zhang, who said she did not recognise Ms Chia on the train as they had not met for more than 10 years.