Kee Thuan Chye

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Kee Thuan Chye
Chinese name 紀傳財 (traditional)
Chinese name 纪传财 (simplified)
Born (1954-05-25) 25 May 1954 (age 63)
Penang, Federation of Malaya
Occupation Journalist, editor, author, playwright, actor, and civil liberty advocate
Spouse(s) Lim Choy Wan
Children Soraya Sunitra Kee Xiang Yin (daughter), and Jebat Arjuna Kee Jia Liang (son)

Kee Thuan Chye (born 25 May 1954; aged 63) is a Malaysian actor, dramatist, poet and journalist. Acting in theatre, films, and on television for more than 30 years, he continues to do so. In 1981, Kee co-founded the theatre group, KAMI, in Kuala Lumpur. A noted civil rights activist, he would express in his plays whatever he could not express through the newspapers under Malaysia's repressive Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). For speaking out without fear or favour, Kee was among the first recipients of The Annexe Heroes Freedom of Expression Awards when it was launched in 2008.[2] In 2010, he was also voted the 34th Most Trusted Malaysian in a poll conducted by Reader's Digest.[2]

Although social reengineering under the New Economic Policy had already begun after the 13 May Incident of 1969, it became more pronounced after Mahathir bin Mohamad became Prime Minister in 1981. At the New Straits Times, Kee Thuan Chye received numerous memos from his editor-in-chief for trying to push the parameters and opening up public discourse on what was deemed 'sensitive' issues. Firmly believing that the responsibility of a journalist to the public is to inform them of the truth, he had to battle with his superiors and as a consequence, he was often punished, marginalised, and shut out.[3] In 1988, Kee received his master's degree in drama from the University of Essex, after being awarded a British Council Fellowship for postgraduate studies in England.

In 2001, Kee Thuan Chye became the Associate Editor of The Star in Kuala Lumpur, creating and editing the English column, Mind Our English, until retirement in May 2009.[4] His Sunday Star column, Playing The Fool, which he began in April 2001, ran for only two instalments before it was cancelled. In his inaugural article, Kee had written that he would be speaking out frankly on social and political issues, without fear or favour. His second article, hitting out at racial discrimination in Malaysia, was published but when it came to his third article, the editors got jittery and suppressed it. The Star finally decided to terminate the column after Kee submitted his fourth article.

Civil rights advocacy[edit]

Kee Thuan Chye's political awakening began when he could not afford to pursue his master's degree unless he had a tutor's position.[3] He applied for the post at Universiti Sains Malaysia, his alma mater, and although he was the top student in his class, the job was given to someone else.[3] Kee then joined the now-defunct National Echo as a literary editor where he wrote scathingly about political matters. Moving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur to join the New Straits Times in the late 1970s, he saw more clearly how race had been politicised to divide the people. Mahathir Mohamad who had become the Prime Minister in 1981 was becoming increasingly dictatorial and would tolerate no criticism of him and his government in the media.

What Kee Thuan Chye could not express through the newspaper, he eventually expressed in his plays. 1984 Here and Now which spoke out frankly against Big Brother and institutionalised racial discrimination, played to full houses in 1985,[3] followed, amongst others, by The Big Purge which brazenly satirises Mahathir and Operation Lalang.

In the aftermath of the 2008 general elections, Kee Thuan Chye rushed out his book 8 March: The Day Malaysia Woke Up in a record three months, due to the topicality of the subject matter. This was followed by 8 March: Time for Real Change in 2010. For speaking out without fear or favour, Kee was among the first recipients of The Annexe Heroes Freedom of Expression Awards when it was launched by The Annexe Gallery at Central Market in Kuala Lumpur in 2008 to recognise Malaysians who have done outstanding work in championing freedom of expression in the previous year.[5] In 2010, he was also voted the 34th Most Trusted Malaysian in a poll conducted by Reader's Digest.[2]



Year Title Role Remarks
2015 Foundation Father Short film made for Cine 65 Singapore competition
2008 Sell Out! CEO 1 Directed by Yeo Joon Han (Amok Films)
2007 1957 Hati Malaya Tan Cheng Lock Directed by Shuhaimi Baba (Pesona Pictures)
2004 Ah Lok Kafe: The Movie Char Koay Teow Directed by Anwardi Jamil
2001 Snipers Mr. Tan Written and directed by James Lee
2000 Lips to Lips Scrabble Man Written and directed by Amir Muhammad
1999 Anna and the King Second Judge Directed by Andy Tennant, starring Jodie Foster (Twentieth Century Fox)
Entrapment Trader #1 Directed by Jon Amiel, starring Sean Connery (Twentieth Century Fox)


Kee Thuan Chye has appeared in more than 20 television dramas, including but not limited to:

Year Title Role Remarks
2015 Code of Law (Season 3) Justice Peter Loh Singapore TV series
The Circle House Tan Hock Chuan[6] Singapore TV-movie
2014 Mata Mata (Season 2)[7] Tan Eng Chye Singapore TV series
2013 Code of Law (Season 2) Justice Peter Loh Singapore TV series
2012 Code of Law (Season 1) Justice Peter Loh Singapore TV series
2011 The Pupil (Season 2) Justice Peter Loh Singapore TV series
2009 10 (Sepuluh) Liew 8-episode TV drama series
Mr Siao's Mandarin Class Robert Toh TV sitcom
2008 Sense of Home: Kampung Kid Marcus Owyang Lead role in the TV-movie, shot in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Secrets of the Forbidden City Xia Yuanji Playing the role of Minister of Revenue to the Yongle Emperor in the dramatised documentary for the BBC and the History Channel
2007 Marco Polo: Discovery of the World Chief Map Maker Hallmark TV-movie
2006 Realiti David Yeoh A TV series
2004 Singapore Shakes! David Setoh 'Seventh Month' episode of the Singapore series
Perceptions Victor Wong Main-cast member in the 13-episode Singapore series
2003 Each Other Ronnie Ng Semi-regular role in the 13-episode drama series
2002 Kopitiam Kok Hui Guest role in one episode of the 3rd season
Love Matters: The Marriage Factor Daddy A Singapore telemovie
2001 Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd Lim Pek Kong Guest role of one episode of the Singapore sitcom
2000 Teh Tarik Dot Com Vince Main cast member of the 13-episode sitcom
1999 Kopitiam Major Lim Guest role of in one episode of sitcom (2nd season)
1996-1997 City of the Rich Han Lee Main cast member in the 200-episode series
1984 Maria Peter A Malay TV drama
1977 Bailey's Bird Ming Ho Guest role in German-Australian TV series


Kee Thuan Chye has written, directed, and acted in numerous plays, including but not limited to:

Year Title Role Remarks
2015 Public Enemy Actor (as Martin Kwek) Directed by Glen Goei, W!ld Rice Productions, Singapore
2014 2 Houses Actor (as Heah) Directed by Lim Yubeng, premiered at George Town Festival
2012 The Flight of the Jade Bird Actor (as The Narrator) Directed by Mark Chan, premiered at the Singapore Arts Festival 2012
2011 Swordfish + Concubine:
The Fall of Singapura
Writer Directed by Jonathan Lim, Young 'n' Wild, Singapore
The Baling Talks Actor
(as Chin Peng)
Played at the Singapore Arts Festival for Five Arts Centre
2008 The Swordfish, Then the Concubine Writer Directed by Ivan Heng, premiered as the opening play of the Singapore Theatre Festival 2008, organised by Wild Rice Productions.
2006 The Swordfish, Then the Concubine Writer The play made it to the Top 5 out of over 600 entries to the International Playwriting Festival, organised by the Warehouse Theatre in Croydon, United Kingdom, with excerpts presented at the festival in November 2006
2005 The Big Purge Writer Selected for Typhoon 4, a playreading festival organised by the Yellow Earth Theatre, held in Soho Theatre, London
2002 Beautifully Read Actor A performance sponsored by the US Embassy, directed by Karin delaPena, Artistic Director of Speaking of Stories, based in Santa Barbara, California
1994 We Could **** You Mr. Birch Writer-cum-director Performed for two seasons in June and December 1994. The play was invited to the Festival of Asian Performing Arts in Singapore in 1995 (performances on 5–6 June at the World Trade Centre Auditorium).
1993 The Birch and the Rod Director A play written by K.S. Maniam, premiering at the Australasian Drama Studies Association Conference in Perth, Western Australia
1992 Macbeth Director A Shakespearean play
1990 Gulls Lead actor Directed by Robert Hewett
The Proposal Actor
(as Chubukhov)
Play written by Anton Chekhov
1989 Death of a Salesman Actor (as Willy Loman) Play written by American playwright Arthur Miller
1988 The Big Purge Writer Selected for Typhoon 4, a playreading festival organised by Yellow Earth Theatre and held in Soho Theatre, London
1987 Anak Tanjung Actor
(as Ah Heng)
A Malay play written by Noordin Hassan
1986 The Coffin Is Too Big for the Hole Actor (one-man performance) Play written by Kuo Pao Kun
1985 1984 Here and Now Writer Staged in 1985 by Five Arts Centre, directed by Krishen Jit
Yap Ah Loy - The Play Actor
(various roles)
Play written by Chin San Sooi
1984 Long Day's Journey Into Night Actor
(as Jamie Tyrone)
Play written by Eugene O'Neill
1981 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Actor
(as Claudius)
Play written by Tom Stoppard
1977 Eyeballs, Leper, and a Very Dead Spider Writer-cum-director -
Antigone Actor
(as Creon)
Play written by Jean Anouilh
1974 Oh, But I Don't Want To Go, Oh, But I Have To... Writer-cum-director -
The Situation of the Man who Stabbed a Dummy or a Woman and was Disarmed by the Members of the Club for a Reason Yet Obscure, If There Was One Writer-cum-director -
1973 An Old Man Died Today Writer-cum-director -

Scriptwriting for television[edit]

  • 2009: Writing storylines for Auntie English, produced by Astro
  • 2004: Co-writing the script for one episode of Singapore Shakes! with Remesh Panicker, followed by another episode, singly
  • 1998–1999: Writing storylines for the 150-episode Idaman II
  • 1997-1998: Writing storylines for the 150-episode Idaman

Major book publications[edit]

Apart from publishing numerous articles, Kee Thuan Chye has authored several books, including:

  • Unbelievably Stupid Too! (Gerakbudaya, 2015)
  • Unbelievably Stupid! (Gerakbudaya, 2015)
  • Can We Save Malaysia, Please! (Marshall Cavendish, 2014)
  • The Elections Bullshit (SIRD, 2013)
  • Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More! (SIRD, 2013)
  • No More Bullshit, Please, We're All Malaysians (Marshall Cavendish, 2012)
  • 8 March: Time for Real Change (Marshall Cavendish, 2010)
  • 8 March: The Day Malaysia Woke Up (Marshall Cavendish, 2008)
  • 1984 Here and Now (Marshall Cavendish, 2004)
  • The Big Purge (Marshall Cavendish, 2004)
  • We Could **** You, Mr Birch (Marshall Cavendish, 2004)
  • Old Doctors Never Fade Away, a biography (Teks Publishing, 1988)
  • Just In So Many Words, a collection of selected writings in the press (Heinemann, 1992, reprinted 1993)
  • Haunting the Tiger and Other Stories, edited (Berita Publishing, 1991)