William Cheah, founder of Kembara Kitchen, a social enterprise that relies on catering revenue and volunteers to help the needy throughout Malaysia, last night took to social media to out what he says was a predator in his charity’s midst.
The post, which has since gone viral and been picked up by mainstream media outlets including the Star, warns parents that a man who volunteered at Kembara had used his role to inappropriately approach underage girls online seeking face-to-face meetings.
Reiterating the story of a young girl he refers to as Miss L, he explained that both she and her father described an inappropriate bombardment of messages the man sent the teen, then only 13-years-old.
Using the guise of a mentor-slash-older brother, he approached the girl on social media and began sending her direct messages, which Cheah posted to Facebook in full.
To read through them is to cringe at a page pulled out of the groomer’s handbook: Approach the girl in a “safe” space – in this case, their shared volunteer work. Compliment her, try to make her your friend, and then begin to suggest a rendezvous that would be only him and her.
Throughout their conversations, the suspect begged the girl to take his WhatsApp number, to go to dinner, to go to movies, he would even call her. All of these actions were rebuffed, yet he persisted to the point where she had to ask several times to be left alone.
Shocked that a platform intended to do good for Malaysians was being used in such an unseemly manner, William Cheah named and shamed the man, and wrote that any associations or links the accused claimed to have with Kembara were non-existent.
“Never in my worst fears did I expect an adult veteran volunteer known in the activist community to behave in such manner, even to the inclusion of underage girls,” Cheah said.
Following the post less than 24-hours ago, many applauded the move, and worryingly – more women came forward to describe their own experiences as young girls at the hands of the man: The guise of brotherly love and mentorship quickly devolving into endless messages, requests to meet up, other inappropriate behavior.
Looking back, many of the alleged victims realize how strange it was that an adult man would take such a keen interest in kids that had barely hit puberty, but at the time thought his intentions were either genuine, or found themselves too embarrassed to speak up.
“He would ask me to meet up with him, and I would tell him my parents wouldn’t allow it. To which he responded: he wouldn’t mind picking me up or meeting me nearby,” wrote one victim.
“I blocked him but he continued to stalk my friend. Messaged her like half a year ago to tell her that he saw her at Mid Valley… telling her she’s pretty and all grown-up,” she added.
Unfortunately, many victims did not report his behavior at the time, and grooming laws in Malaysia only came into effect in 2017. Activities before new laws are in effect usually cannot be acted upon retroactively. Essentially, this leaves their accusations to live only as social media fodder.
Since the post went viral, the man in question removed his social media profile, but not before several alleged victims and social users identified him, as well as his work place, in a government agency.
*Coconuts KL has not named the accused given that no case has yet been filed with police or in civil court.