Friday, October 28, 2005

The Hangman ...

Hot topic currently ... A 25 year old aussie guy who is caught carrying 396gm of heroin, acting as a mule for a drug syndicate, in transit to Cambodia from Australia. He's caught last year March in Singapore and he is now sentenced to death. He was not a criminal, this is his first offence, and he's doing this so as to clear the gambling debt f his brother.

Everyone's talking about how the governments of both countries should or should not behave. Anyone put themselves in the position of the kid? His brother is in shit ass debt. He's doing this to save his brother, and in the process, he got nabbed. He tried to collaborate with the Singapore government and never denied his crimes. He is now to be hung. The drug lords from Aussie and Cambodia must be feeling crappy that their goods got into the hands of the goverment, and also grinning that a sacrifice is going to be made while they are still at large. So what will this execution serve? To teach people a lesson? Teach who a lesson? It cuts off possible leads to the real criminals and does nothing to stop future similar action by the drug lords (who's only loss is a life which doesn't matter).
Nguyen was in a lose lose situation all the way from the beginning. If he did nothing to help his bro, he'll be looked upon by the people around him as heartless; now he helps and he gets hung. All I can say is, this is going to be a loss of life which will serve no good purpose to any goverments, but the drug lords - for it will make it harder to catch them.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I'm heartless...but the law is the law...there is no such thing as "let's look at offenders individually and see whether there's justification for their criminal acts". You break the rules, you serve the time.

That's the whole point of law, rite?

Andy said...

It's horribly overly severe, but it does serve a purpose. The purpose of overly harsh punishments is not retribution, but deterrence. To show a policy of zero tolerance makes people in Nguyen's situation think, "Hmm, I can help my brother clear his gambling debt slowly by borrowing money from lots of different banks, and working hard to pay off those loans bit by bit over a period of 15-20 years, or I can clear it quickly by doing illegal acts. However, if I try to clear it quickly, I have a chance of dying. The first option has become more attractive."

Too much forgiveness is also bad. Think of it from Nguyen's brother's perspective. He started gambling. He accrued a big debt. He had his brother take care it for him. If Nguyen didn't get caught, and paid off the loan, do you think his brother would've learned anything? That's the problem with law enforcement:
(1) You want to deter people from committing the crime
(2) You don't want to be unfair in this case
(3) Every person has a different threshold of punishment that will deter them away from the crime.

The problem Singapore has is that its achieved it's ultra-conservative "utopia-like" society with a policy of zero tolerance. This has the effect of giving its citizens a very safe, clean, moral society at the expense of creativity, freedoms, and forgiveness. Once it allows elements of forgiveness and freedom, it will lose positive elements of the society. Every loving relative of every deadbeat brother will then know that if they want to go the route of crime, they might as well take Singapore Airlines.

So while Singapore's solution is, in my opinion, extreme to the max, they do have a valid argument. It's just not a very good one if you're any kind of human being.

Anonymous said...

slowly borrowing from banks and working off loans over 15-20 years?

i think you must be quite ignorant.

elvin said...

I think that we need to differentiate the act from the reasons behind it.

Though the reasons/story behind his actions certainly deserve our sympathy, the act in this case is smuggling of drugs and the penalty in this land for that is death.

No reason, regardless of how worthy a cause, should be used to justify an evil act. And the act of drug trafficking is evil indeed - you need only ask the loved ones of the drug addicts.

If we say that a worthy reason can justify an evil act, then would we not be saying that the actions of the Nazis in WWII are justified since the reasons were worthy - at least to the Nazis....

Yee-Wei Chai said...

I kinda expected the kind of flak I am receiving here from fellow singaporeans. Most Singaporean stands by their government and takes on the defensive stands and says "Why should the other government tells us what we should do. It just saddens me to see how easy it is for people to say "kill him kill him", without first putting themselves in other people's shoes.

I guess the governments themselves were embroiled in face saving situation, where the issue is not the boy's life, but whether we should give in to other country's pleas. Guess it would make the Singapore goverment look like a sissy.

The boy deserves punishment, but dear fellow human beings, the question here is, is death the best punishment? (And yeah there will be people out there crying for blood saying "yeah death is the way to go"). And Singapore would not want to set a precedent you say with respect to drug's ruling.

But guys, why can the goverment change precedents with certain drug ruling (from 1 year to 6mths) with a certain prominent judge's son for taking cocaine and estasy, while another couple few years before that being sent to 2 years prison for taking marijuana in another country. Double standards for our goverment's courts and thus it does not retain my respect for this case.

elvin said...

I disagree with your comparison to a certain extent.

I am no legal expert but I think that the law on drug trafficking in Singapore stipulates a compulsory death penalty when certain limits are breached - as in this case.

In the other cases where sentences have been reduced, it would be harder to argue the reasons behind them if the law just stipulates a sentence of "6 months to 5 years" (an example).

Again, I do not think that we are calling for his blood. It is a mandatory sentence. Maybe what we should be calling for is the abolishing of death sentences?

Yee-Wei Chai said...

Elvin, read this
Cached page.
For your kind enlightenment, our mandatory drug use sentence in SG is 12mths - that is before this case came along. Our good friend's son here got 8mths (thus forever changing the ruling), then discounted to 6mths after appeal .. and then was let out earlier 2 mths before the end of sentence for good behavior. The minimum for the law was changed in this case. Read your news bro.

elvin said...


our good friend's son was convicted of possesion and consumption of drugs - this carries a penalty of a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or fine of 20k.

the penalty for trafficking of 400g of herion is death. period.

check out the misuse of drugs act in the singapore statues if you have time - - esp schedule 2 where the punishments are laid out.....

Anonymous said...

so you kill someone to make a point? What about the value of human life?

Kill someone just because the country is suffering from some post-colonial identity crisis?

someone told me to butt out of the discussion because i'm not singaporean and do not understand "asian values". Asia is a very big place and by implying that Asians are different and need to be ruled by harsh laws, isn't saying that Asians are too simple to be ruled by a more humanitarian law?

Anyone looked at the UN human rights charter?
The mandatory death sentence is an abuse of human rights. but according to this friend, Human Rights are subjective.

On the radio station, there were vox pops with Singaporeans and I think the Australian media is trying to make out that all Singaporeans are hard arse barbarians. Reading this blog, it's good to see some less extreme indoctrinated view because the way the media is presented Sing, it's like it's a country full of inflexible sheep.

Anonymous said...

yee-wai chai
you are very brave for not toeing the party line.

ana said...

It's really a very shocking news that this 25 years old man is going to be hung tomorrow in Singapore. So far, I didn't really knew these things until I read your blog article about the hangman; Tuong Van Nguyen... It is really a pity that his family is losing a member for helping his own brother's being in dept.

However, its sad how this 25 years old Aussie man is going to be hung... Really really sad, but really it's life. And life is tough. I mean like, brothers, do help each other but not until like this happens to one of them, especially the proccessing bit and had cabbed. It's stupid how he brings drugs to Australia, I mean why can't he bring something else you see? ... Yes that is rude! saying KILL HIM KILL HIM! really, those people doesn't care of this miserable soul... Maybe, if my brother; for instance is being on dept, I would definitely not bring DRUGS along to another country, because it will be easily caught !!! since this experienced had happened to one soul man; Tuong Van Nguyen... All i can say is.. really, Sad... "Life's lifes, and it's tough"

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