Phoon Chiu Yoke (Badge Lady)
Phoon Chiu Yoke (born 1968), also known as the Badge Lady, is a Singaporean woman who gained notoriety for not wearing a mask in various public places and breaching her Stay Home Notice (SHN). Phoon earned the “Badge Lady” moniker after a viral video (dated 15 May 2021) showed her asking a safe distancing ambassador (SDA) for a badge when advised to put on a mask.
Breach of COVID-19 laws in Singapore (2020-21)
Viral incident at Marina Bay Sands (15 May)
Phoon first came into the spotlight when a Facebook video posted by Prince Shawn on 15 May 2021 showed her expressing open defiance towards an SDA when advised to put on a mask. In response to the SDA’s entreaties, Phoon questioned her authority:
“Do you have a badge? If you don’t have a badge, why are you asking me to do something? Who are you representing?"
It was this statement that earned Phoon the “Badge Lady” or “Badge Woman” nickname on social media. At the end of the video, Phoon is seen inserting a blue disposable mask into her right skirt pocket.
Preliminary investigation by the police (15 May)
On the same day that Phoon’s video surfaced on Facebook, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) launched an investigation after receiving a call for assistance at 5:15pm. Phoon was then investigated for what SPF described as “public nuisance and breaching safe distancing measures.”
Phoon’s other known offences
Phoon’s breach of local COVID-19 regulations was not isolated to the incident at MBS. Below is a breakdown of the other COVID-19-related offences she is known to have committed.
1. Newton Hawker Centre
A report by The Straits Times on 19 May 2021 revealed that Phoon had a pending charge for going maskless “at all times” at Newton Hawker Centre from 7.20pm to 8pm on 8 May 2020. Phoon had committed this offence during Singapore’s circuit breaker period, which lasted from 7 April to 1 June 2020.
Phoon is known to have departed Singapore for Britain some time after.
2. Breach of SHN
Phoon returned to Singapore on 28 June 2020 and was placed on a 14-day SHN at MBS until 12 July 2020. However, she allegedly exited her room without a mask from 8:07pm to 8:23pm on the first day of her SHN.
A later court hearing revealed that Phoon had left her room on four other occasions: twice on 8 July 2021, and once each on 5 and 9 July 2021.
3. VivoCity and Clarke Quay Central
Phoon was also caught maskless at other public places in Singapore, including a FairPrice NTUC supermarket at VivoCity on 3 February 2021 and the entrance to Clarke Quay Central on 2 December 2020.
During the latter incident at Clarke Quay Central, Phoon was refused entry by mall staff. In retaliation, she asked the mall staff the following:
“Do you represent Central Mall? Show me a card that says you represent Central Mall.”
Phoon can also be heard accusing the mall staff of “damaging the public image of Singapore.”
4. Bras Basah Complex
According to 8 Days, Phoon also went maskless at Bras Basah Complex on 18 May 2021.
First summons to the State Courts (24 May 2021)
Phoon was first summoned to the State Courts on 24 May 2021 for her breach of regulations at Newton Hawker Centre. She was notably maskless when she walked towards the State Courts building, only putting on a mask when she neared the entrance.
Phoon was not represented by a lawyer for this hearing, showing up for the court proceedings alone at 1:15pm. She attempted to remove her mask before addressing the court, but she was stopped by District Judge A. Sangeetha, who ordered her to leave it on.
The prosecution called for an adjournment of Phoon’s case as investigations into her other offences were still ongoing at the time. While Phoon initially questioned the adjournment, she eventually “obliged in good faith.”
When she left the court at around 3pm, Phoon was observed to have removed her mask while clutching a water bottle that she did not drink from.
Arrest (25 May 2021)
Phoon was arrested on 25 May 2021. She was handed five charges under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act and one charge under the Infectious Diseases Act.
According to SPF and the State Courts, Phoon’s “conduct poses a real risk to public health given the current Covid-19 situation.”
Phoon was subsequently remanded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for two weeks to be psychiatrically evaluated. Her case was then adjourned to 8 June 2021.
First release on bail (8 June 2021)
Phoon was released on an $8,000 bail on 8 June 2021 under the condition that she adhered to COVID-19 regulations and did not reoffend.
During the court hearing, Phoon attempted to get her charges dropped and lower her bail from $10,000 to $3,000 by citing her former position as a naval officer:
“I have a very strong professional standing, not only in Singapore, but globally... I served in the navy for 12 years and was the first female commanding officer.”
Phoon also claimed that the investigating officers had committed “procedural errors” in her arrest and had apparently apprehended her without a warrant. Specific to her SHN case, she claimed that she had just returned from a vacation and was unaware of Singapore’s mask-wearing laws.
When Phoon asked District Judge Janet Wong to clarify the COVID-19 regulations, she was informed that these were laws that everyone had to adhere to, which included the wearing of masks in public spaces.
Phoon’s case was then adjourned to 15 June 2021 to determine the additional charges that would be handed to her.
More charges expected to be meted out to Phoon (15 June 2021)
Phoon was next summoned to court on 15 June 2021. During this court hearing, the prosecution mentioned its intention to mete out additional charges to her, including some related to the Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). The details of these charges were not revealed at the time.
Phoon attempted to get these new charges dropped by emphasising her past naval career again. Stating that she had been an “eyewitness or plaintiff” in a number of unclarified cases linked to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), she claimed that it would thus make her present hearing unfair by default.
“I am not privy to discuss all these cases in court here without causing embarrassment or being prejudicial to the SAF and to the Government of Singapore... (I) am applying for all these charges to be dropped. Due to all these cases in the past, I should be granted immunity as a citizen,” Phoon said.
District Judge Janet Wang responded by stating that Phoon’s experiences with the SAF were irrelevant to her present case.
Phoon’s case was then adjourned to 6 July 2021.
14 new charges to be handed to Phoon (6 July 2021)
Phoon’s third court hearing took place on 6 July 2021, where she was handed 14 new charges. These encompass ten charges of refusing to wear a mask in public and four charges for breaching her SHN in 2020.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Jane Lim successfully requested for Phoon’s bail to be increased from $8,000 to $12,000. According to DPP Lim, the request was made because Phoon had not replied to calls and an email by ICA to assist in investigations. Phoon also rejected an ICA officer’s attempt to speak to her right before this court hearing.
DPP Lim also highlighted that Phoon had breached her bail condition to abide by COVID-19 regulations. This occurred on 25 June 2021, when she was caught not wearing a mask in Mandarin Orchard at around 3pm.
Phoon responded to the new allegations by asserting that most of the new charges were “not presented to [her] previously.”
On the subject of rejecting the ICA officers’ attempt to contact her, Phoon said: "I challenge that, because I get a lot of prank calls on my mobile phone, so sometimes I just miss my calls. As to the email they sent me, I have not given my email account to any of the ICA officers, and it is not uncommon that I miss one or two emails if it's directed to (spam)."
She also described the ICA officer outside the courtroom as “very aggressive” and was in “a highly emotional state”. She thus believed that her decision to not engage him was justified.
On the subject of not wearing her mask, Phoon claimed to have a combination of eczema and breathing difficulties. She also mentioned that she had a “long medical history” that was linked to her personal life and her naval officer career.
“If I'm wearing a mask and feeling breathless, I think it's the most natural human response to pull it down instead of collapsing ... (in order) to fulfil bail conditions. As a responsible Singaporean, I have complied with bail conditions as much as I wanted to,” she said.
DPP Lim responded to Phoon’s defence by stating that “she should refrain from listing irrelevant reasons at this forum.” Specific to Phoon’s reasons for flouting her bail conditions, DPP Lim emphasised that they are determined by the court and should not be altered according to an individual’s “whim and fancy.”
First pre-trial conference (23 July 2021)
Phoon’s first pre-trial conference took place on 23 July 2021. During the hearing, she was ordered to return to court on 13 August 2021 to attend a chamber hearing that will decide how her case will proceed moving forward.
One day later on 24 July 2021, a district judge revoked Phoon’s bail of $12,000. This was because Phoon had flouted her bail condition of adhering to COVID-19 laws by going maskless at Mandarin Orchard on 25 June 2021. She was then remanded.
Phoon was then slated for a second pre-trial conference on 26 July 2021.
References / Citations
- Tan, Ashley. "'Badge' woman arrested for not wearing mask 5 times in public & leaving hotel room during SHN.” Mothership SG. May 25 2021. Accessed 21 July, 2021.
- "Badge Lady MBS." Facebook. May 15 2021. Accessed 21 July, 2021.
- "Giving Strength to Our Nation - The SAF and its People.” MINDEF Singapore. Accessed 22 July, 2021.
- Sun, David. "Woman who refused to wear mask at MBS released on bail, asks for charges against her to be dropped." June 8 2021. Accessed 22 July. 2021.
- Sun, David. "Woman who refused to wear mask at MBS being investigated." The Straits Times. May 15 2021. Accessed 22 July, 2021.
- Alkhatib, Shaffiq. "Woman seen in video not wearing mask at MBS has pending charge over similar offence.” The Straits Times. May 25 2021. Accessed 22 July, 2021.
- Alkhatib, Shaffiq."Woman not wearing mask at various places arrested, handed more charges including SHN breach." The Straits Times. May 25 2021. Accessed 22 July, 2021.
- Low, Dominic. “Woman who refused to wear a mask at MBS handed 14 new charges." The Straits Times. July 6 2021. Accessed 23 July, 2021
- Yip, Jieying. "A Timeline Of ‘Badge Woman’ Being Caught On Camera Going Mask-Free & Breaching SHN." 8 Days. May 26 2021. Accessed 22 July, 2021.
- "Badge Lady at Clarke Quay Central." Facebook. May 15 2021. Accessed 22 July, 2021.
- Sun, David. "Woman who refused to wear mask at MBS turns up outside court maskless, but wears one to enter." The Straits Times. May 24 2021. Accessed 22 July, 2021.
- Sun, David. “Woman who refused to wear mask at MBS released on bail, asks for charges against her to be dropped." The Straits Times. June 8 2021. Accessed 23 July, 2021.
- Alkhatib, Shaffiq. "More charges expected for woman caught not wearing a mask at MBS and other places." The Straits Times. June 15 2021. Accessed 23 July, 2021.
- Lam, Lydia. "Woman seen without mask gets 14 new charges, challenges prosecutor who says she breached bail conditions." Channel News Asia. July 7 2021. Accessed 23 July, 2021.
- Lam, Lydia "Woman seen without mask is remanded, has bail revoked after being charged again with fresh offence." Channel News Asia. July 24 2021. Accessed 24 July, 2021.