Her plight was highlighted a few years ago in Penang as well.
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Koh Lee Peng once brought glory to Malaysia as a top Paralympic athlete. However, now at the age of 48, it seems that our country has failed her. She is forced to sell tissue covers on the roadside to survive.
Twitter user @fxwxb documented his meeting with her and her heartbreaking story in a thread.
He first noticed the recognizable ‘Harimau Malaya’ polo shirt that all national athletes wear.
She was also holding a battered newspaper clipping of herself, with the headline reading “Former OKU Paralympic Swimmer Scorned”.
She introduced herself as Koh Lee Peng from Penang and claimed that “she is not ashamed of her current job (selling tissue covers)” even though she was one of Malaysia’s best and brightest just less than a decade ago.
Koh even told @fxwxb that he could look her up on YouTube if he did not believe her.
The present and the past
It turns out that just a few years ago, the story broke that she was heavily scorned while selling tissue packets in her hometown Penang.
According to Berita Harian, she had been insulted and ignored when she was selling tissue packets in Bukit Mertajam, with locals calling her ‘part of a syndicate’ or claiming she was an illegal foreigner from Vietnam, Thailand, or the Philippines.
Koh is confined to a wheelchair and cannot use both legs. While previously she held an office job, the workplace was located in a building without a lift, making her daily life extremely difficult.
Without another choice, Koh had to turn to the street to earn a living.
In 2019, after her plight made national news, she and fellow paralympians were awarded with cash aid and a token monthly allowance of RM300.
Her plight is common for former athletes
However, her story isn’t uncommon. In April 2021, a Vice documentary exposed how retired paralympians are treated in Malaysia, drawing huge criticism from Malaysians.
Just a few days later, government agencies showed up and made a big show of gifting cash aid and even a home to retired weight-lifting paralympian Mariappan Perumal.
Malaysia’s Paralympian team are formidable opponents in their respective sports, especially when competing in international competitions.
However, in general, despite the incredible feats that Malaysia’s Paralympians have performed, it seems that once their fame and glory are over, they are simply forgotten.
I’m tweeting from a place of anger & disappointment.Twitter user @fxwxb
Naturally, the surfacing of this story upset netizens, who are demanding better treatment for our former athletes.
This is just infuriating that our former athletes are left like this, despite giving their all for the country and making the country proud. And we have stupid politicians being hired as advisors who do nothing but humiliate us worldwide— Hulubalang (@Hulubalang2017) January 15, 2022
Koh Lee Peng has contributed significantly to Malaysian sports. Her welfare should be taken care of FOR LIFE – not left to fend for herself on the streets. This is UNACCEPTABLE @KBSMalaysia @ParalympicMsia @YAKEB_ https://t.co/vM9Hupw6gF— All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) (@AWAMMalaysia) January 15, 2022
My god i wouldve cried😭— YamVaxxed&Boosted (@mrmnzr) January 15, 2022
The way the gov repaying back to our athletes is just sad..tp kalau football players,kemain tatang.. athletes sukan lain diabaikan
Tolong la https://t.co/hhv2ocH4sn
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.