Skip to comments.Australian anger over Singapore hanging
Posted on 11/28/2005 9:25:27 PM PST by maui_hawaii
Time is running out for 25-year-old Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, who is due to be executed at Singapore's Changi prison on Friday. His death sentence has sparked widespread criticism in Australia.
The Canberra government has repeatedly pleaded for clemency, as have lawyers, trade unions and church groups.
But Singapore remains unmoved, and insists the hanging will go ahead as planned.
"People have been praying for a change of heart," said Father Peter Norden, a friend of Kim Nguyen, the condemned man's mother.
"They want the Singapore government to change its heart from one of stone to a heart of flesh, as well as compassion and reason," he told the BBC.
Father Norden said Nguyen should be spared: "We believe this young man has committed a serious crime deserving of punishment, but not the loss of his life."
Nguyen was arrested carrying almost 400 grams (14 ounces) of heroin at Singapore's Changi airport in late 2002.
He said he was trying to smuggle the drugs from Cambodia to Australia to pay off his twin brother's debts.
The Australian government believes Nguyen should not face the gallows because he has no previous criminal convictions. It has also argued that he could help investigations into drug syndicates if allowed to live.
But in a letter to his Australian counterpart, the Speaker of the Singapore Parliament, Abdullah Tarmugi, said there was no room for compromise.
"We have an obligation to protect the lives of those who could be ruined by the drugs Nguyen was carrying," he wrote. "He knew what he was doing and the consequences of his actions."
According to Amnesty International, about 420 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for drugs offences.
If these figures are correct, they would give the prosperous city-state of 4.2 million people the highest execution rate in the world, relative to its population.
At the weekend Australian Prime Minister John Howard made his fifth personal plea to the Singaporean leadership, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta.
Mr Howard warned that Singapore should prepare for "lingering resentment" in Australia if the execution went ahead.
He has, however, rejected calls for boycotts of Singaporean companies, as well as trade and military sanctions with one of Australia's closest Asian allies.
"I believe John Howard has done as much as he could do," said Gerard Henderson, from the conservative think-tank The Sydney Institute.
"Listening to talk-back radio, there are some people who think that heroin smugglers deserve the death penalty, but I believe that the majority of Australians hold a different view," Mr Henderson told the BBC News website.
"They will be approaching Friday's deadline with a sense of dread," he added.
Nguyen was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980, after his mother fled from Vietnam. The family eventually settled in Melbourne.
Several last-ditch efforts to save him have been suggested, including taking Singapore to the International Court of Justice or arranging a prisoner swap, but legal experts have said none are likely to succeed.
Simon Rice, a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, said that Singapore was not a signatory to international human rights covenants, and there was little hope the 25-year-old drug trafficker would be saved.
"[Nguyen's] execution is a seriously tragic reminder of how far short we are of a global commitment to human rights," Mr Rice told the BBC.
Some church leaders have called on Australians to observe a minute's silence for Nguyen on Friday, but overall opinion remains mixed.
"No-one has the right to take the life of someone else," John Karousos, a 66-year-old retiree in Sydney, told the BBC. "It doesn't matter what he's done or his mistakes. The death penalty is unacceptable."
"I have a small hope that it will be stopped at the last moment," he added optimistically.
But Gilly Parminter, a 40-year-old mother, was less sympathetic.
"Personally I think if you go into a country you have to abide by their laws, and you have to live with the consequences."
"It does seem harsh but they [the Singaporeans] can't change their minds at this late stage because it will undermine their system," she said.
The last Australian to be executed overseas was Michael McAuliffe.
The barman from Sydney was hanged in Malaysia in June 1993, after serving eight years in prison for heroin trafficking.
In 1986 two Australian citizens, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers, were also hanged in Malaysia after being convicted of drug smuggling.
There appears to be little hope that Nguyen Tuong Van will avoid a similar fate in Singapore this Friday.
Note to self: Don't smuggle anything through Singapore.
Someone who "gets it"
Not to sell... Don't go to to Singpore Period.
Hey Nguyen.....save a spot for Tookie.
Once in Changi Airport, there are plenty of pre-Customs multi-lingual notices in the terminal warning of the penalty for smuggling drugs into Singapore, and plenty of pre-Customs rest rooms in which to dump your stash.
There are simply no excuses.
Midnight Express was enough to deter me from ever doing anything illegal in any country, including my own. lol
He's got only one excuse. That being he is an utter dumb ass.
when in Rome....
You will get hung for one, and caned for the other.
Exactly. Any country that whips the flesh right off your arse for doing something as little as spitting gum out in the street is not a country you want to screw with much less even get near. Why I keep reading about people smuggling drugs of all things into this country is something I`ll never understand in a million years, and it always seems to be people from Australia. The last was that woman who was busted last year.
What is Midnight Express?
Please amend the headline: "Australian MEDIA anger over Singapore hanging".
Maybe this brainiac was doing a little too much of his own product.
But we get the drift. You got liberal media too.
Spitting gum on the street (littering) is punishable by a S$300 fine if my memory serves me correctly. No caning for littering.
"As for Michael Fay himself, he returned home to the United States, lived in Ohio with his mother. He moved to Florida in 1995 for a job at Universal Studios and attended college in Orlando.
In 1998 he pled guilty to possession of marijuana and paid a $500 fine."
Some folks never learn.
A movie. Google it
A movie about a westerner escaping a Turkish prison who was convicted on drug offenses, as I recall.
Yeah...and lefty priests and university types, as well!!!!
We should be executing heroin and meth dealers here. Give a fair warning on the hew policy of course
Ooooh. Turkish prison. Enough said.
A fellow thought he could smuggle two kilos of hash out of Turkey. Got caught and ended up spending some quality time in a Turkish prison. The story was made into a movie in 1978.
What's the word I'm looking for?
CARE. That's it.
I don't CARE.
Lefty university types? Thats a redundant comment.
Fair point. No argument here :)
He's probably one of the few people I know of who are famous for getting an @ss whoopin'
I bet THEY have won their war on drugs. This how you fight a war you want to win, if you are serious about it.
While I understand how people could be against the death penalty, these same people don't seem to care nearly as much about the destructive consequences of certain illegal and usually heinous activities that give rise to the death penalty.
Billy Hayes: Yeah, but how?
Max: Catch the midnight express.
Billy Hayes: But what's that?
Max: [laughs] Well it's not a train. It's a prison word for... escape. But it doesn't stop around here.
They asked a Singaporean official once about the death penalty and how many people were executed. His reply was something like, "we don't know how many, and don't care...keeping track of such things is a waste of paper"
Maybe I will watch it this Friday night in commemoration of the memory of this guy.
I have been to Singapore many times and think it is a great city to visit. It is clean, safe and modern. The people of Singapore have the government they want. The list their freedoms in two ways "freedom to" and "freedom from".
Someone could make some money writing a comprehensive travel guide for westerners, who have more adventuresome spirit than worldly understanding - of what can most easily get one into serious trouble around the globe.
Suggested title: "Things you absolutely must not do".
There are really a lot of things which you can get in serious trouble in other places which seem relatively trivial back home - and they're important to know. In the Philippines don't tear up a Piso at the airport tax window. In Thailand don't climb onto a Buddha, or insult the King. Stuff like that. (this poster's understanding is the situations above have gotten tourists arrested and jailed)
Someone actually wrote a (quite informative) book on how to use squat toilets around the world - there's really a need for some information like this on a broad scale.
I don`t know, I read something a while ago that they whip your butt for that, but I`ve never been there before nor do I intend to. Can you imagine that happening here, butt whipping for grafitti or whatever it is? Forgeeeet it, you`d have ambulance chasers blocking up the courts for decades not to mention liberals going into seizures. You can`t even whip a serial killer in the US! Matter of fact, not only do we not whip them, we (Hollywood) makes movies about them and celebrates them on Oscar night.
Sane people realize that executing the nonviolent doesn't exactly lessen the amount of destruction.
They haven't won their war on drugs, they've simply driven it further underground, driven the prices up, at the cost of human lives - people who didn't need to die, who less "ruin lives" than a beer distributor.
This guy wasn't even staying in their country - he was just passing through. This is a totally gratuitous execution.
"He knew what he was doing and the consequences of his actions."
Too bad for him that Singapore's law does not mention a "dumb ass" exclusion.
Here's an idea.... let this be one of those "Fear Factor" stunts...
As the traffic cop once said to me, as I protested that I'd only been over-parked one minute -- "That's all it takes."
"they've simply driven it further underground"
Good idea. Give our drug peddlers a free trip to Singapore, provided they walk down those streets saying, "Got those loose joints, got that gold."
"Note to self: Don't smuggle anything through Singapore."
I heard about a Westerner, I think it was a Dutchman, who was on a direct flight from Thailand to Australia. He was smuggling some kind of drug, but figured correctly that the Thais wouldn't bother him leaving the country, and the severity of punishment in Australia was low enough to make it worth the risk.
However, the plane had mechanical difficulties and diverted to Singapore. The fellow became frantic and was pulled aside for special investigation. The drugs were found and the smuggler was soon hanging by the neck until dead.
So I guess there is a risk in that part of the world even if you are not supposed to be transiting via Singapore.
If justices Breyer, Kennedy, and Ruth Bader-Meinhoff-Ginsburg are paying attention that will note that this is a part of foriegn law that should be adopted by the US - death to drug dealers.
In order to own a car in Singapore, to control the number of cars there, you have to obtain an ownership permit first, which can roughly equal the cost of the car itself! Hence, when Michael Fay went on his graffiti binge spray painting cars, he was damaging property worth twice the value elsewhere. Strict punishment certainly gets the attention of would-be criminals, although there still is crime in Singapore.