Thursday, December 10, 2009

Outlook for Yong Vui Kong still bleak despite rare reprieve

Although Singapore's High Court granted condemned Malaysian drug mule Yong Vui Kong a rare second stay of execution on Tuesday, the probability that he will be spared the gallows is still extremely slim.

The court ruled that Yong had the right to a full appeal after he withdrew his first appeal without understanding the implications of what he was doing.

Yong's legal representative M. Ravi, one of Singapore's only human rights lawyers, said that he had been under the misapprehension that he would have to lie in court if he was to have any hope of winning an appeal. Having become a devout Buddhist since being sentenced to death for trafficking heroin last November, Yong therefore decided to withdraw his initial appeal rather than lie in court.

The Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign said it was "heartened" by the decision, which it found "very encouraging". The campaigners have indeed done sterling work in bringing attention to Yong's case and, perhaps more importantly, in helping raise the money to cover legal fees and the expenses of Yong's family, who have come to Singapore from Malaysia.

But, as the campaigners admitted in a statement, "Yong's life still hangs in the balance". While it is commendable that the high court wants to give Yong a proper appeal, given that Yong has admitted his guilt, it is extremely unlikely that the judges will make an exception to the law, which prescribes mandatory execution for drug trafficking.

It will be little consolation to Yong or his family but the anti death penalty campaign in Singapore gains more support because of the attention that cases like his attract - even Singapore's craven state media have begun to cover his case.

It is often argued that Singaporeans are not interested in politics and/or fearful of taking part in any kind of activism.

The growing - if still very modest - support for the anti death penalty movement is an encouraging sign of the resilience of civil society in Singapore.

But, let's not kid ourselves here. Only around 80 people turned up to a meeting in October to promote the international day against the death penalty, even if that was many more than organisers had expected. And less than 1,000 Singaporeans were willing to sign the petition to the President to grant Yong clemency.

If Singaporeans want to change their society, they will ultimately have to become more vocal and face down the risks (real or imagined) that that may entail.




  1. Thank you Mr Bland for still offering your views on Singapore despite having had to leave the country. It's really helpful and we hope you continue.

  2. Why is Asian Correspondent so preachy?

  3. Thanks for your comment A.S. - I do plan to carry on reporting on Singapore as well as Indonesia, my new home, and other countries in Southeast Asia.

    Preachy in what way Mahjaz?

  4. It is quite clear to me that public opinion in Singapore generally supports the death penalty at this time. Without popular support, notwithstanding those who support abolishment standing up for their position, change in this aspect of society's position won't happen yet.

  5. The Singaporeans are far too afraid to adopt a position which runs counter to that of the Father-and-Son regime; they know they will lose their jobs, and become targets. The citizens are highly-conditioned to acquiesce to the Government's dictates; anything less than full unequivocal submission, is tantamount to treason. The glazed eyes and fixed smiles, mask a naked fear.