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Founded 1970s
Founding location Singapore
Years active 1970s-present
Territory Singapore
Ethnicity Predominately Chinese, some Malays and Indians
Criminal activities Extortion, drug trafficking, prostitution, assault, murder

Salakau, which means 369 in Hokkien, also known as "Sah Lak Kau", is a street gang or secret society based in Singapore. The numbers 3,6 and 9 add up to 18, which was the name of an older gang; the number signified the 18 arhats (principal disciples) of Shaolin Monastery.[1]


In the early 1970s to late 1980's, Salakau attacked rival gangs and started many turf wars[citation needed]. Salakau recruited many members from Indian and Malay communities after relaxing the Chinese-only rule. In the 1970s, more Malays were reported to be joining after being introduced to gang members during tea dances in discos. This was because Malay gangs were smaller and less structured due to the drastic drop of the Malay population and increase of the Chinese population.[2]

Salakau also made profits from narcotics, extortion, and prostitution. Attacks on rival gangs such as the '303' gang (Sakongsa in Hokkien), the Omega gang, and the 18 SYH gang were somewhat of a routine occurrence. The police cracked down on gang activity in the early 1980s and gang wars came to a screeching halt as many of the leaders were jailed. Many other notorious 'headmen' fled to neighbouring countries or were killed in gang attacks.[citation needed] In the 1990s, some teenagers in "pseudo-street gangs" claimed affiliation to Salakau to be "cool" but did not engage in activities as violent as those engaged in by the real gang;[3] in 1993, there were at least nine separate teenage gangs calling themselves 'Salakau'.[4] However, in the late 1990s and early dawn of the millennium, the gang gained strength as many of the jailed leaders were released, and several of the members had succeeded in scaring off many rival gangs from territories. Gang attacks once again became common and rioting cases shot up. Cases of murder involving gang attacks and riots were steadily increasing and the police tightened its noose on the gangs. Singapore's Secret Society Branch dedicated most of its resources to halt the gang violence and managed stopping a considerable amount of members. Slowly but surely, the gang violence receded and many members were put in prison.

Law enforcement[edit]

Salakau predominantly holds the territories as mentioned, but gang activity has slowed down considerably due to the Singapore Police Force (SPF) having a better understanding of the gang networks and sufficient resources. The Secret Societies Branch (SSB) of the SPF has made efforts to control the secret societies in recent years. The SSB regularly conducts surprise raids or checks on nightspots, and public places known to be gang territories to deter any potential offenders. Under Singaporean criminal law, a person found guilty of being a member of an unlawful society may be punished up to a maximum of five years imprisonment and five strokes of the cane. Sentences are usually doubled or even tripled for anyone with significant leadership and authority in any unlawful society in Singapore.

Incidents in 2010[edit]

Bukit Panjang incident[edit]

On 8 November 2010, seven youths were repeatedly slashed by a group of parang-wielding men in Bukit Panjang, in what appeared to be gang-related attacks. The victims, aged between 14 and 20, were attacked in two separate incidents. The victim of the first incident, a 20-year-old assistant technician, was slashed in the back and legs. The victims of the second incident were a group of 20 youths, who were surrounded by the attackers. In both instances, the assailants first asked their victims whether they were from a gang called "Pak Hai Tong". The victims were slashed when they denied association with the group. The gang members shouted "Salakau" before fleeing the scene. The attacker left then 15-year-old Brandon Lim Qian Da, hospitalized with a severed tongue while six from the second attack received outpatient treatment for their injuries.[5]


  1. ^ Ooi Boon, Tan (18 May 1993). "The name game : from sports teams and rock bands to secret societies". Straits Times
  2. ^ Ooi Boon, Tan (10 April 1993). "Malay youths joining Chinese gangs". Straits Times
  3. ^ Teo, Ginnie and Phuan, William (20 July 1997). "The 'bluff gangsters'". Straits Times
  4. ^ Ooi Boon, Tan (18 May 1993). "The name game : from sports teams and rock bands to secret societies". Straits Times
  5. ^ "Youths attacked by '369' gang member" AsiaOne News

See also[edit]