North Korea assassination

We Visited The Home Of Kim Jong-nam's Alleged Assassin

A girl from a quaint village near Jakarta is at the center of a modern day spy thriller.

by Adi Renaldi
24 February 2017, 10:02am

Siti Aishah's house. Photos by Author.

With all the media commotion, it wasn't hard to find Asria's house in the middle of a quiet village three hours outside of Jakarta. One thin road cut through the neighborhood, it was the only way in and out. The road is so small only one car can go through at a time. It seemed like a warm place where neighbors take time out to chat with each other.

The 750 square foot house was leafy. There were many cacti, some as tall as six feet. The exterior had a fresh coat of orange paint and the tiles on the terrace were blue and glistening. There's nothing out of the ordinary about this house, except for the fact that the alleged 'LOL' assassin, Siti Aishah, grew up here. 

The house has been a hive of activity since the assassination of Kim Jong-Un's half brother. There's been a steady stream of journalists or fellow residents who visit to show their support for the man whose daughter was arrested for allegedly poisoning Kim Jong-nam with deadly VX nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur International Airport last week. 

"I can only wish that Siti Aishah is a victim of manipulation. This just came out of nowhere," said Asria, Siti's father, when VICE Indonesia visited him at his home in Sindangsari village, Serang District, Banten. He never thought his family would be at the center of a story that could have been ripped from the pages of a cheesy spy novel. 

Asria and his wife, Benah, have had days where they felt sick and refused to open their door for anyone. Asria's blood pressure dropped, he constantly felt dizzy. "All we can do is send prayers. This is our third night of Quran recitation with our neighbors. We plan to do it until the 7th day," he said. 

The road to Siti Aishah's house

Although they're worried about their daughter, they are still very friendly and full of smiles. "I'm shocked, obviously, but if I keep thinking about it, it'll make me sick. I surrender everything to the Almighty Allah," Asria said with watery eyes.

Asria, almost 60 years old, is a farmer and tradesman. He plants ginger and vegetables in a field outside the village. When he's not working the field, he sells vegetables that he buys from other farmers. Asria is skinny, he probably doesn't weigh more than 100lbs.

"That's why I rarely check my calendar, because I don't receive regular monthly income," he said jokingly. Through his hard work Asria fed his family and built a house. His first child is a driver, while his second daughter trades fruit by the main street of Palka, near the border of their village.

Ever since the murder case, Asria has a hard time working because he can't get himself to focus. All he can think about is his daughter. "I'd just like to see her and make sure that she's healthy," said Asria, while taking a drag of a clove cigarette. 

"I can only wish that Siti Aishah is a victim of manipulation. This just came out of nowhere."

Several days before, staff from Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited his home in a closed door meeting to show moral support for his family. Banten Police Brigadier General Listyo Sigit Prabowo came to show his solidarity as well. However, nobody from the municipal government has visited the home. "There's been no confirmation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [for legal assistance]. We're only hoping for a chance to meet Siti," said Asria slowly.

According to Suhendi, Siti's best friend from elementary school, Siti is an obedient child who would never want to disappoint her family. "The last time Siti came home was last Chinese New Year, there was nothing different about her. She told me that she was going to shoot a commercial in Batam," said Suhendi.

Siti Aishah only attended elementary school. Two years before graduation she moved to Jakarta to work at a clothing retailer, where she met the son of the owner, who eventually became her husband.

Suhendi said Siti is a woman who liked to stay close to home. "Whenever she's home, she wouldn't go far. Probably just to buy snacks," he said. He said Siti's murder case doesn't make any sense to him. "She wouldn't hurt a fly, she couldn't have murdered someone."

Suhendi is a plastic trash collector. He collects trash all over Serang, in a day he can collect up to 2 tons worth of plastic and sell them to a dump in Jakarta. The trash is processed into plastic pellets for recycling.

Many of Siti's family and friends are eager to see her and speak with her. The spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Armanatha Nasir, said that currently the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is still waiting for consular access to the Malaysian police force. The embassy has appointed attorneys to the case.

"I will emphasize that Indonesia's efforts through our embassy in Kuala Lumpur are very fast and proactive," said Armanatha. "In the bilateral meeting with Vietnam and Malaysia a couple of days ago, Minister Retno Marsudi has mentioned consular efforts, and Malaysia's Minister of Foreign Affairs will try its best."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that Siti's passport was legitimate, although there still needs to be verification on whether or not the data is correct.

Regarding the Malaysian police's statement that Siti was a knowing participant in the assassination, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted they have yet to receive any confirmation because there's been no official contact with Malaysian investigators.

"The embassy has made efforts to meet with the investigator, and our attorneys have requested for information, but there's been no substantial information given by the investigators to us," said Armanatha. It seems that the Indonesian government is just as far in the dark as Siti's parents are back in her village.