Oxford academics say Thum Ping Tjin 'is and remains an academically trained historian'

A group of academics from the University of Oxford said Dr Thum Ping Tjin had received a Doctor of Philosophy in History from the university, and is an active researcher who has produced refereed academic books and journal articles.
A group of academics from the University of Oxford said Dr Thum Ping Tjin had received a Doctor of Philosophy in History from the university, and is an active researcher who has produced refereed academic books and journal articles. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - A group of academics from the University of Oxford have written to the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods to attest to historian Thum Ping Tjin's academic credentials.

They said Dr Thum had received a Doctor of Philosophy in History from the university, and is an active researcher who has produced refereed academic books and journal articles.

"Dr PJ Thum is and remains an academically trained historian," said Emeritus Beit Professor of Commonwealth History Judith Brown, Emeritus Professor of Global and Imperial History John Darwin and Emeritus Fellow of Trinity College Peter Carey in a letter they released to the media on Wednesday (May 2).

Their comments follow a statement on Monday by committee chairman Charles Chong, who accused Dr Thum of possibly being in cahoots with foreigners in an attempt to influence and subvert Singapore's parliamentary processes.

Mr Chong had also called into question Dr Thum's affiliation with the university, saying it is an "as yet unresolved matter" he had brought up in a separate statement on April 17.

"Dr Thum has given himself a bewildering variety of titles in his evidence to the Select Committee - from 'Research Fellow in History' to 'visiting professorship in anthropology' - almost all of which turned out to be inaccurate, non-existent or misleading," he said.

The academics, who were examiners and supervisors of Dr Thum's doctoral thesis, said his work was successfully examined on March 17, 2011.

 
 
 

"We wish to affirm that his doctoral thesis, Chinese Language Political Mobilisation in Singapore, 1953-1963, was written to the very highest standards of historical research that Oxford expects of its doctoral students, and that, in that tradition, Dr Thum pursued his research where the historical evidence took him, without fear or favour," they said.

They added that this conclusion had been confirmed in an examiner's report, which had called it "a well produced thesis... based on an excellent understanding of the historiography relevant to the subject, and on a significant range of primary sources".

The correspondence is the latest in a series of statements and letters put out by the Select Committee and various academics about Dr Thum and his appearance in front of the Select Committee on March 29.

A group of 284 signatories from around the world - most of whom are academics - and some Oxford researchers had accused the committee of intimidating and discrediting Dr Thum for criticising the Government, in a letter and a statement. On Monday, Mr Chong said Dr Thum may have had a hand in crafting the open letter as well as the statement.

Dr Thum had said in his written submission to the Select Committee that the Government was the biggest purveyor of fake news and had lied about Operation Coldstore, a dragnet in 1963 which more than 100 leftist unionists and politicians were arrested.

He was subsequently challenged about the claim by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam during the committee's hearings in a six-hour exchange.