MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



10 APRIL 2024

Friday, March 30, 2012

Disabled son of rare earth plant worker dies

The son of former Asian Rare Earth (ARE) factory labourer Lai Kwan, Cheah Kok Leong, who was born with congenital defects, passed away at Ipoh Hospital last night. He was 29 years old.
His elder sister, Lai Sun, confirmed his death when contacted byMalaysiakini, saying that he died of a serious bacterial infection.

She said Kok Leong had been suffering from both fever and cold two days ago, and the antipyretic medication he was taking had been ineffective.

NONEYesterday morning, his conditions deteriorated - Kok Leong began complaining of experiencing of pain in his ears and was shivering uncontrollably, so he was immediately sent to the hospital.

Lai Sun said Kok Leong was brought by an ambulance to Ipoh Hospital at around noon yesterday.

“We tried to calm him down and told him not to be afraid, and let the doctor examine him. He then held my hand and leaned on my shoulder,” she said.

Following medical tests, it was discovered that the bacterial infection had spread to Kok Leong’s brain and he was in critical condition.

NONELai Sun said that after unsuccessful attempts to save his life, Kok Leong passed away at 9.32pm last night.

“When he died, his arms and legs turned black and blue.”

As for her brother’s funeral arrangements, Lai Sun said her family had held a funeral recently and did not want a second funeral as it could have detrimental effects on the older members of the family.

Thus they decided to skip the funeral and cremate Kok Leong’s remains today. His ashes will be interred at the Paradise Memorial Park near Ipoh tomorrow.

“We have decided to keep things simple. If anyone wants to come, they can visit my mother (Lai Kwan),” she said.

Radioactive waste

Lai Kwan, 69, worked as a bricklayer under a building contractor during ARE’s expansion in 1982 to support her seven children, and was at that time pregnant with Kok Leong.

NONEShe quit when she heard that ARE, which is owned by Japanese multinational Mitsubishi, was producing radioactive waste.

Kok Leong was underweight at birth and frequently suffered from asthma. He had also been diagnosed with Down syndrome, cataracts and had a hole in his heart.

Early this month, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) said that Kok Leong’s condition was “unlikely” to be caused by exposure to radiation.

ARE was brought back into the spotlight recently in the wake of a controversial plan by an Australian company, Lynas, to build a rare earth refinery plant in Gebeng, Pahang.

Opponents to Lynas had frequently raised the problems afflicting the rare earth plant in Bukit Merah as a cautionary tale.

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