Facing death in Singapore

Normally I'm not a fan of popular attempts to influence justice systems, but the presence of the death penalty, particularly in a country as enlightened as Singapore, is appalling enough for me to take action. Though I doubt it will have much effect, I think we owe it to a fellow human being to do all we can:


NGUYEN TUONG VAN - Please don't hang this man

He now faces execution, possibly within 10 days.

Nguyen's mother fled Vietnam alone in a boat in 1980 and had her twin sons in a transit camp in Malaysia before being accepted into Australia four months later.

Nguyen's Australian lawyers described the decision as "devastating for him, his family and friends".

Lex Lasry QC said Nguyen had always admitted his guilt and given constructive help to authorities including the Australian Federal Police.

"The decision appears to pay no heed to the provisions of the Singapore Constitution that make specific reference and provide for clemency to those who assist the authorities with information which can be used to prosecute others," he said.

Mr Lasry called on the Singapore Government to reverse its decision.

Nguyen was sentenced to death last year after being found guilty by a Singapore court of smuggling almost 400 grams of heroin from Cambodia via Singapore.

Nguyen said he had the drugs because he was trying to raise money to clear debts incurred by his twin brother.

Please write to the President of Singapore Mr S R Nathan and plead clemency for Nguyen Tuong Van. email: istana_general_office@istana.gov.sg

Please address the President as Your Excellency and end the letter with Yours respectfully.

As an interesting local footnote to this case, the 'debts incurred by his twin brother' referred to in the third last paragraph are in fact the legal debts of his brother who was recently convicted of murder in relation to the Salt nightclub killings just a few minutes north of my humble abode. (After playing around with Google for a while, I realised that this information was not on the public record, but I have been told of its truth by a reliable source. So there.) Regardless of Nguyen Tuong Van's brother's folly, he - and the rest of humanity - absolutely deserve to be spared the death penalty. So let's get those emails flying Singapore-bound.

UPDATE, 1/11, 11:30am: I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong. Having reviewed the evidence, I believe that I was wrong in my claim that the brother of Nguyen Truong Van had a link to the Salt nightclub murder. Having read this piece in The Sunday Age, which refers to Nguyen's twin brother Khao as living in Western Australia, and comparing this with the names associated with the Salt killing (and the fact that they were convicted and incarcerated), I believe that there was no connection between Khao and the killings. A relied on a single source for this information, one that I believed was reliable, but they have proven not to be so. No doubt the Nguyen family have got much much more important things to worry about than my scuttlebutt, but I'm deeply sorry for publishing the misinformation.


boy_fromOz said…
you wonder why Singapore wears this like a badge of national prestige (highest per capita execution rate in the world). It's as if since the '97 financial crisis sunk the 'Asian values' polemic, they've had to make up for it by hanging smalltime dope pushers. Actions speak louder than words, I suppose.

dam kena sai...
boy_fromOz said…
still, it was a thoughtless move on Lasry's part to tell the Singaporeans that they're mistinterpreting their own constitution...
thr said…
Fascinatinbg stuff re: the brothers own legal issuues.

Have dined out on that story.

Singapore and Malaysia wear their "drug carriers get death" like a badge of honour..
Anonymous said…
Mr Lasry seems to have moved on from appealing to the Singapore authorities & is bleating on every news & current affairs show about what the Australian government should do.

Mr Lasry seems to be overlooking that it is the Singapore government which runs Singapore.
Anonymous said…
John Lee: Singapore was hanging drug offenders long before the '97 financial crisis.

Are you suggesting seriously that since '97 the government of Singapore has been picking up small time dope pushers & stringing them up as a sort of "penis substitute"? That before '97 small time dope pushers could operate with impunity?
boy_fromOz said…
I wasn't referring to a change of govt policy in Singapore, I was referring to how they usually situate the death penalty in the values discourse - this is how we maintain social order, why we're better than the decadent west, etc etc. I'm not quite sure what Steve means by a 'penis substitute'...

Lasry, Phillip Adams & co are missing the point that Australia has no leverage over Singapore (unlike e.g. the US, but then I can't see the US govt spending political capital to stop the death penalty being applied). We are not as big a fish in the region as we like to think.
Anonymous said…

Here's the deal, it is called state sovereignty. It means that in Singapore, the Singapore government can make any law it wants to. It even means that they can make laws which contravene your understanding of 'human rights'.

The good thing about state sovereignty is that if you don't want to be subject to a particular state's laws, you just don't go there. If you don't want to die, but you still you want to visit Singapore, just remember to leave your drugs at home.

So, here's the deal, some stupid bloke with criminal connections in Australia gets done smuggling drugs in a country which is proud of the fact that it puts drug smugglers to death, then complains when he gets caught and the same sentence is give to him.

And here's a question for all you human rights activists out there...

Why is it that when Singapore kills its own people, it's ok, we don't say anything, but when they try to kill an Australian it's not? What about being an Australian citizen somehow makes this guy's life more important than that of a local?

On that note, same goes for stupid Australians who travel in Hurricane zones, get caught in one and then expect special treatment because they are foreigners. If a disaster of that scale happened here and all the Americans were rescued first it would cause riots!

So, here's the thing. Australians, as individuals, are not intrinsically 'better' than the rest of the world, we are not more deserving as a result of any particular birth-right and the sooner we realised this the better off we will all be.
Anonymous said…
John Lee: Have to agree with you, Singapore does a far better job of maintaining public order than does Australia. I am trying to think of something postive which Australia does better than Sinagpore......
Anonymous said…
Well, I'm glad I didn't have that compassion lobotomy last week. I might have ended up espousing views like Steve's and AKD's. I shudder to think...

Yes, AKD, a nation CAN make laws that contravene human rights. And they do it all the time. The Australian government is going to introduce some next week. But it doesn't stop us from opposing them on moral grounds.

I have met Nguyen in 2000, and he struck me as a pretty decent bloke. He was a bit rough around the edges and I had an understanding that his brother was in some trouble then.

He made an ill advised decision, but I've made silly decisions in the past, as I'm sure we all have. What he has done is not a hanging offence, and we should do what we can to save his life.

The death penalty is inhumane and abhorrent. Most civilized countries did away with it decades ago. Singapore is a relic in this regard.
Anonymous said…
Correction Nahum, what Van Nguyen did IS a hanging offence. How else you think he got onto death row?

He was not charged with flower arranging you know, but with dealing in death. He was an adult, making an informed decision, he KNEW the penalty for trafficking in Singapore. Where is the problem?

Get a grip on yourself & stop making out you have some sort of monopoly on compassion, you have no claim whatsoever to any moral high ground. Come join reality buck.

If you want to find some compassion in yourself somewhere, try thinking of the victims of drug use.
Anonymous said…
Oh, sorry. I think I may have made a small error. Trafficking in drugs is a hanging offence in a couple of developing backwater nations and in Singapore. But my point was that it shouldn't be.

And it's their right to put people to death inhumanely in contravention of human rights obligations. Just like it's our right to lock assylum seekers up and throw the key away, regardless of their age, situation and legitimacy, in contravention of human rights obligations.

I never claimed a monopoly on compassion Steve. I'm happy for you to attack me personally, and for you to attack others, but really, what does it achieve? It's as pointless as a deterrent to debate as the death penalty is to drug traffickers.

There is no relevant relativism when it comes to those who engage in self harming activities. I'm not suggesting that we take pity on Nguyen and not pity addictive drug users. But in many respects both are subject to a similar duress to act to their own detriment.

Mr Nguyen was a pawn in the bigger game, as are the hapless drug addicts.

Social order may be more evident in Singapore but it's also a less democratic country, and covers far less land area, and has 16,000,000 fewer citizens than Australia. It should be much easier to maintain public order in such a state, and one shouldn't need to resort to an uncivilized, inhumane and ineffective sanction such as capital punishment.

Let's boycott them until they leave their trees.
Anonymous said…
Nahum: Generall I don't truck with racists. However primitive racism isn't your only flaw. You also show sympathy for criminals, no sympathy for vicitms of crime, & can't tell the difference between an illegal immigrant & desperate refugee.

Why shouldn't drug smugglers hang? I can't think of a better way of preventing a courier making another run.

It is Singapore's "right" to hang criminals? Certainly is, also is their right to cane people who commit property crimes or crimes against the person. Application of the criminal justice in Singapore is considerably more effective & apt than it is in Oz. Criminals are at least punished in Singapore.

When you say "asylum seekers" don't you mean illegal immigrants, those who "lose" all their paperwork & stuff, but somehow manage to rustle up US$10,000 for passage on a leaky boat to Australia (this AFTER) they have passed through several countries other than the one they are "escaping" from?

It would be considerably cheaper for them to buy an airline ticket to Australia. Oh wait.. (slap my forehead) of course, to arrive by airliner one must obtain a VISA... (oh silly me... )

The victims of drugs are NOT the losers who become addicts, they can swing along with other drug offenders. The victims are those whose lives are disrupted by the drug-fuked crazies, those who are burgled, the ambulance drives who are assaulted on the job, the cabbies who live in fear of finding a drug-fuked arsehole in their back seat, etc etc.

Boycotting Singapore isn't going to happen, nor should it. Especially when their society is superior to ours in every way. Racist comments like yours don't belong in Australia. We should buy you a ticket to Bali, they know how to handle crass westerners there!
Anonymous said…
Does anyone disagree
Sinapore has its own valid laws
Last I knew they aren't Australian
Maybe he should have done it here
thr said…
Geez thanks Ari- I now have to dine out with sam e people and BLAME YOU for talking shit on teh net.

Oh wait. thats what it's for...

Carry on

boy_fromOz said…
some sympathy on the ground.
small compensation for Singapore bumping back that bipartisan resolution, though
Anonymous said…
By Jingo's Ari, old son, you've hit the hot button with this issue :P I've never seen so many comments to one of your posts :)

Nahum, wonderfully put as ever. You're a decent bloke.. you oughta stand for parliament :)

I note comments re: Lasry's style in earlier comments. Lasry has publicly stated that this is a deliberate move now to generate public support and try to sway things politically, now that court appeals are no more.

However he has pointedly noted the differences between this and other high profile cases currently before courts, in that he has deliberately kept it out of the public and "Ray-Martin-esque" media while it was before the courts, knowing from experience that it would be counter productive.

And he did a great job... hands up those, Nahum aside perhaps, who knew of this case before Lasry put it out there. Nairy a mention worldwide which was just the way Lasry wanted it.

Regards to all

Peter Billing
Anonymous said…
I would just like to say that every country has it own laws and and style of governance. No one would want to see their countrymen be punished (in this case, death) in another country. Myself, like many others feel for Van Nguyen. I also admit that Singapore has one of the toughest laws in the world and I too would really wish the laws be bent but then again, how much is too much? Every country has its own set of problems and if the "archaic" legal system is Singapore's, then it might be right to say racism and communism is the problem for others.

If everyone who needs money goes around trafficking drugs and when caught expects compassion, then what would the world become? Will it then become right for one to commit a crime just because he needs to? There are many ways to solve a problem but if one chooses to break the law to achieve that purpose, then he/she must also be prepared to face the music.

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