Doing his part to free the world from chemical arms

Doing his part to free the world from chemical arms
Former Singapore Armed Forces medic Stanley Cheong (in a blue shirt) out in the field on assignment for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which recently won the Nobel Peace Prize. The only Singaporean working for the international watchdog, he has been on around 25 missions.

SINGAPORE - After almost a decade as a medic in the Singapore Armed Forces, Mr Stanley Cheong decided he was ready for a change. Yet, when he resigned as an army regular in 2009, even he could not have predicted that he would soon be working with some of the world's deadliest chemicals.

Today, the 37-year-old has around 25 missions under his belt as a chemical weapons inspector.

He is the only Singaporean working in the the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Netherlands-based outfit that was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The OCPW has overseen the destruction of some 80 per cent of the world's declared chemical weapons stocks since it was founded in 1997. The assignments include arsenals in India, South Korea, Libya and the large stockpile held by the United States.

Speaking to The Straits Times over the phone from The Hague, where he lives with his wife and two children, Mr Cheong said he could not divulge details of his own work - state parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention tend to want to be secretive about their chemical weapons - but he said just going for the job interview gave him "one of the most intense moments of my life".

The interview panel tried to rattle him even as they tested him on everything from his geopolitical knowledge to his medical know-how, he recalled. "It took about an hour but it felt like forever".

Perhaps because chemical weapons inspectors need to maintain a certain level of stoicism, he was more stolid when describing the intensive training and the work, even though he has to operate in the midst of sarin, mustard gas and other deadly chemical agents.

He kept largely mum about any war stories he might have garnered from the field.

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