Category Archives: Vui Kong’s Letters

Letters from Vui Kong – The Ninth Letter : The Importance of Education

Yong Vui Kong is a death row inmate in Singapore. He was arrested at age 19 with 47.27g of heroin, convicted of trafficking and sentenced under the Mandatory Death Penalty. His final appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 4 April 2011. He can now only plead for clemency from the President (acting on the advice of the Cabinet).

If the President does not grant clemency to Vui Kong, these will be the last 12 letters he will ever write.

The following is the ninth letter:

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13/6/2011

English translation:

The Ninth Letter : The Importance of Education

Yetian:

When I was in Primary 2, I had a classmate named Luo Yan. He once said something that is deeply embedded in my memory.

Young though he was he said to me, “If you want you should work to be the best, or you will be the worst!”

He said this because I was unable to get along with many classmates, and there were many misunderstandings.

At the time I was immature and misunderstood the meaning of his words, and thought he meant that “you should study to be #1, otherwise you might as well just be the worst”. I made the mistake of choosing the latter, thinking that since it was impossible for me to be #1 in class, I might as well give up on my studies. This decision was the biggest, biggest mistake.

From Primary 2 until I went into jail at 19 years old, I never properly thought about how to live my life, and never thought about whether I should study. After coming in here I thought about what Luo Yan said, my heart grew courageous, I grew wiser, and that was why I started studying Buddhist philosophy!

I have read some statistics, I don’t know if it is right or not. I hope that you can check on it for me.

An American report has pointed out that there are a large number of death row inmates who have very low levels of education. Usually it is those who are lowly-educated who make mistakes and possibly get sentenced to death.

(Note: The report pointed out by Vui Kong is one done by researchers in America. The report pointed out that the death penalty penalises people not by race or origins of birth, but by levels of education. Those with low levels of education are more likely to be sentenced to death.)

I was a rebellious youth who never had proper education, unfamiliar with the sentencing of different offences. Because I lacked education and knowledge, I was tricked by others into believing that smuggling drugs would not attract the death penalty, which is why I in all my ignorance made mistake upon mistake!

Although compared to others I might seem unprivileged because I never received proper education; but I think that it is not too late to start now.

Now, I don’t want to make any more mistakes. Every day I read a lot of books, learning new things like English, and I keep meditating.

Perhaps one morning I will be executed, but in case one day I am able to leave this prison alive, full knowledge and the correct outlook on life is what I hope to achieve. If I can speak English, then I can spread the word about the harm of being involved with drugs to even more people.

Of course, apart from education in school, guidance from the family is also very important. The future of a child is created by the people at home. If you are too busy at work or too caught up in your life, the chances of your child turning bad is high. For me, it was because my relatives were all busy and did not have time for me, so I became more and more rebellious.

There is another story about life that I would like to share.

In ancient India, a death row inmate was suddenly told before execution: if he could carry a full bowl of water and walk a circle around the palace without spilling a single drop, the King would pardon him. The inmate agreed.

After the news spread, many people gathered around the palace to watch. The road around the palace was bumpy and uneven, and he had to go up and down many steps. The people around shouted, “You’ll drop it in 3 steps! Turn the corner and the water will spill!”

But the inmate seemed not to hear them, he stared at the bowl of water and walked and walked for a long time before returning to his original spot. He had not spilled a single drop.

The crowd was excited, and the king was also very happy. He asked the inmate, “How did you manage not to spill a single drop?”

The inmate answered, “I was not carrying water, this is my life!”

Now, I see my studies as a bowl of water. If a person gives up on learning, then it is like he has given up on life. Life is an education, and education is a sort of life; these two are closely intertwined, how can you not care?

Vui Kong
13/6/2011

Letters from Vui Kong – The Eighth Letter : The Power of Support

Yong Vui Kong is a death row inmate in Singapore. He was arrested at age 19 with 47.27g of heroin, convicted of trafficking and sentenced under the Mandatory Death Penalty. His final appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 4 April 2011. He can now only plead for clemency from the President (acting on the advice of the Cabinet).

If the President does not grant clemency to Vui Kong, these will be the last 12 letters he will ever write.

The following is the eighth letter:

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English translation:

The Eighth Letter: The Power of Support

Yetian:

I have heard a story.

There is a young man, he committed an offence and was sent to prison. For a long time, his family did not visit him. Whenever he saw that other inmates had their families to bring food for them, he felt unhappy and blamed his parents.

One day, the prison warden told him that someone had come to visit him. When he entered the visitor room, he saw his mother, she was dirty, shoes broken, and her feet full of blisters. She was carrying an urn of ashes.

He came from a poor family, his father was a farmer. Their home was very far away from the prison. In order to gather enough money to see him, his father worked too hard and died as a result. His father’s last wish was to see his son. Therefore, his mother carried his father’s ashes and walked all the way to see him.

I heard that this is a real life story, and it has been made into a movie.

Here, every Monday, is the family visiting day for death row inmates.

My family also lives far away from here. Luckily, I have two brothers who work in a hotel in Singapore. They have applied for leave from work every Monday so that they can visit me. I heard from my brother that over the past few years, he sees a woman every Monday, walking slowly, hairs turning from dark to white, to come to visit someone, maybe her son. And, my lawyer also told me that a father to a death row inmate wakes up at 3am every Monday, rides on his motorcycle across the Straits, so that he can see his son as early as possible.

Thus, we are considered lucky death row inmates.

In fact, when we are marked as “death row”, what are our wishes? Allow me as a death row inmate to tell you. Our wish is to have our family’s concern and support. This, I have; during these days in prison, I have my brothers, Yun Leong and Yun Chong’s company, and the relationship between us has improved.

It is very difficult for me to express our feeling on how much we look forward to visits. I am grateful to my family. I must utilise my remaining time fruitfully, study hard and be a good man, in order to repay them.

But I know that a lot of death row inmates do not have anyone to come and visit them, maybe other than their lawyers. Even lawyers only visit them once in a long period of time. Especially those inmates who are not Singaporean. Maybe their families do not know that they are here being locked up. Maybe their situation is like the story of the young man I mentioned above. Maybe even if they are dead, their family will not find out. I am sadden by these facts.

I said I am a lucky one, I am grateful. I know that my family had given me a lot of support. They did not give up on me.

My sisters, and other relatives and friends, they went out to the streets to ask for signatures from strangers, to plead to the President to grant me clemency. They did not ask that I be released from prison, but to spare my life so that I will not be hanged.

My younger sister is only 19 years old, she is always afraid to talk to strangers, yet she mustered the courage to do it. My brother, whenever he had his two-hour break, stood at Orchard Road asking for signatures. I know that it is hard for them, it is difficult. They are also often being scolded. There are people who scold them, asking why they should help me, saying that they should be ashamed of me, saying that I deserve to die. Because of me, my family has to go through this kind of stress, I really don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I think to myself, the families of other death row inmates, are they facing the same stress? Would it be because of this, they give up on them, to the point of disowning them? If it would, then I believe that whether it is the family or the death row inmate himself, they must be very tormented. Because I am in the same situation, I can almost feel their difficulties and the torture. Amithaba.

In the eyes of many, we who have been locked up must be a big evil, not worth mentioning. But our families are not. They have to face the fact that we are going to be hanged to death, it is already very torturous, and cruel thing.

If a death row inmate does not have concern from his family, friends and the society, coupled with the fact of not having a strong faith, then maybe before he is executed, he is already dead in his heart.

A lot of death row inmates know that they are going to die, they lose their will to live; and their families who pray for them day and night, do not know what to do. As a result, they will think there is no more hope, and slowly give up on their own life, and their family also treats them as being already dead even before they are executed.

Yes, a lot are like that.

Maybe it is my fate with the Goddess of Guang Yin, maybe it is the luck I gathered from the good deeds I did in my previous life, or maybe like what my father said, my life is “tough”, I have the opportunity to find faith in Buddhism teachings, this makes me strong spiritually; plus, I have a good lawyer, and most importantly, I know that there are those in the society who plead for me, I know that they have forgiven me and they care for me, and are also giving my family the support they need, all these add to my confidence in life.

Life is precious, I learned.

Yong Vui Kong

Letters from Vui Kong – The Seventh Letter : Happy Fathers’ Day

Yong Vui Kong is a death row inmate in Singapore. He was arrested at age 19 with 47.27g of heroin, convicted of trafficking and sentenced under the Mandatory Death Penalty. His final appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 4 April 2011. He can now only plead for clemency from the President (acting on the advice of the Cabinet).

If the President does not grant clemency to Vui Kong, these will be the last 12 letters he will ever write.

The following is the seventh letter:

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English translation:

The Seventh Letter: Happy Father’s Day

Yetian:

How are you these days? I am well, thank you for your concern. I do well in prison. Everyone treats me well.

Entering this June, everyone must be preparing to celebrate Fathers’ Day. Even though everyone is hard at work, I hope that you will all find some time to go back to visit your fathers.

In 1993, while I was still very young, my father left my mother. At the time all of us siblings were very angry and very upset, because from then on my mother was alone, with no companion.

At that time we blamed my father for being so cold-hearted as to abandon our family. We kept feeling hate, resentment and anger in our hearts. But we were young and there was nothing more we could do but resent my father’s cruelty.

I remember that back then we put all the blame on my father. Only my oldest sister Yu Ying alone understood, so apart from my big sister, my father was estranged from the rest of his children. But even though we were young we also knew that these were grown-up matters, and it was not easy for us young ones to judge.

To me, my father’s leaving was unfair to my mother, because from then on my mother had to take on the burden of supporting a family alone. She had to take care of all of us, and because of that, at a young age we siblings had to be separated.

I still remember one morning before class, my mother did not wake me up and I overslept, and because of that my mother got a beating from my grandfather. At that time I hid in a corner and I was very afraid, but I really wanted to use my own body to shield my mother. Then I cried and I vowed to go out to work as soon as possible so I could take my mother after from this place.

At the time I thought that if my father had still be around, my mother would not have been beaten. But this was so long ago, and things have already changed; studying and learning Buddhist philosophy has allowed me not to be angry with my father and grandfather anymore.

Parents are very important. Everyone needs their parents, parents who are bound to them by blood.

I don’t know how my father sees his marriage with mother, perhaps he thought that it was a mistake from the beginning, or he just felt that it was a responsibility: but in the eyes of the children, without him we would not have been born into this world.

After entering prison, my father came to see me a few times. He looks much older now. He always cried before me. I know he blames himself. As for me, I have let go of the past resentment. In my heart I only have gratitude.

I also have a godfather. He is a good friend of my father. He pitied me and took me in for about 2 years. I am also grateful to him. I heard that because of my case, he was very upset, and wrote an open letter for me.

Here, I would like to say, “Happy Father’s Day”. Please forgive me.

Yun Leong came to see me after he went back to our hometown, and I keep asking him to tell me about how our mother is. My mother thinks, “Vui Kong is inside meditating”. I hope that she will always think this. I hope that she will be well for the rest of her days. I remember that I wanted to give my mother a good life, but I did not succeed. This responsibility must now be given to my sisters and brothers.

Yun Leong tells me, our mother’s illness has improved recently. She does not take as much medication and she is always smiling. I was very glad to hear this. Although I cannot see my mother smiling, I am happy to hear it through my brother. Whether my mother will find out about my situation at the end, we will just let things take its course.

Yetian, the President decision will be coming. Whether it is good or bad, I hope that everyone will accept it. We must work hard not to let the next young person walk down the path I have taken. Thinking about this, I also think of my family. They are really very upset. I have let them down. Because of me, they are under a lot of pressure.

Of course I hope that the Malaysian government can help the other death row inmates, because some of them do not deserve to die.

Yetian, even if you are working hard, remember to at least make a phone call to your family.

Thank you.

Vui Kong

*****

Notes from Yetian:

To those following Vui Kong’s case, there are some photographs which might seem familiar to you: one of these photos is of Vui Kong’s father and family kneeling because the Istana in Singapore. I believe that photograph has brought tears to the eyes of many people. But according to Yun Leong, Vui Kong might not know that his father had put aside his pride and knelt before the Istana for him.

Yun Leong recently went back to his hometown in Sabah, to bring his family out to relax. I have been looking at his photographs, trying to imagine the happy times they had, but at the end of the day, something still seems to be missing.

Vui Kong's family kneeling before the Istana.