Category Archives: Yong Vui Kong

Yong Vui Kong spared from the gallows

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 14, 2013, Singapore – The Singapore Anti-death Penalty Campaign and We Believe In Second Chances welcome today’s decision by Justice Choo Han Teck to spare former drug mule Yong Vui Kong from the gallows. It has always been our position that Yong, a young, first-time offender, deserves a second chance. We are relieved he will not have to pay the ultimate price for his mistake. However his punishment remains a heavy one – Yong will now have to serve a life sentence and receive 15 strokes of the cane.

Today’s verdict was possible because of recent changes to Singapore’s death penalty regime. While we are glad that the amendments have given judges a restricted amount of discretion where they used to have none, we would also like to echo Justice Choo who on October 25, 2013, pointed out that the new law might be problematic in providing defendants a fair process in meeting requirements that need to be fulfilled, before they are eligible for a re-sentencing hearing.

Under the amendments, the death penalty is no longer mandatory for those convicted in drug trafficking cases if the accused is no more than a courier and if the prosecution certifies that he or she rendered substantial assistance to the Central Narcotics Bureau.

The Court only determines whether the two requirements are met after the accused person is convicted.

However, as Justice Choo noted, if evidence relating to whether the accused was a courier is introduced after he is convicted, there is a possibility that this could contradict the court’s original findings or even cast doubts on the accused’s guilt.

Disallowing this evidence on the other hand, might prejudice the accused, making it impossible for him to prove he was just a courier.

Justice Choo suggested that an alternative would be to make it a rule that evidence be produced at trial. However, this puts the accused in a tough position – in order to make the claim that he was just a courier, he must first admit he was trafficking drugs.

Either way, the accused person may potentially be disadvantaged in being able to discharge the burden of showing that the requirements have been met. This is unacceptable, especially since the punishment is mandatory death.

We note that this problem would not persist should full discretion be given to judges to decide on the punishment, and we reiterate our calls for this to be so.

We also question whether the caning of those who have already received a life sentence, is necessary. As Yong’s lawyer, M Ravi, pointed out in Court today, his client is “a pale shadow of the person he was four years ago. He has little fat. He is weak and frail.”

Given Yong’s poor health, we hope that the Prison or the Courts will be extra vigilant in meting out any punishment to him. Moreover, it is important to note that only 33 jurisdictions around the world allow the caning of convicted offenders. Most civilised countries consider the punishment to be a barbaric one.

We would like to point out that the deterrent effect of the death penalty over alternative forms of punishment is unproven. Furthermore, the penalty is an irreversible punishment at the end of a process, which is subject to the fallibilities of humans. We may be able to release innocent persons from prison, but we cannot reverse their executions.

Finally, we join Yong’s family in expressing our deepest gratitude to his lawyer, M Ravi, for working so tirelessly and selflessly for his client these past four years. We know it has not been an easy journey and we are glad he never gave up.

– end –

Contact information

Singapore Anti-death Penalty Campaign – rachelabsinthe@gmail.com

We Believe In Second Chances – contact@secondchances.asia

 

Letters from Death Row – A film project inspired by Yong Vui Kong

Letters from Death Row
Concept art from the pre-production stages of the film.

“The death penalty subject was not something I went looking for, in fact I didn’t know much about the death penalty or [mandatory death penalty]. Then it found me.”
– Kit Lim, Malaysian filmmaker

It’s 2013, and Yong Vui Kong is still on death row in Changi Prison. The campaign to save his life is ongoing, and small changes to the law are giving us a little more hope. In the meantime, his story continues to reach people, challenging them to reflect upon their own views on the death penalty and its place in society. Malaysian filmmaker Kit Lim is just one such person.

“I came across Yong Vui Kong’s case somewhere in 2011. I was working a nine-to-five job then to finance my Master’s studies when I came home one day and read one of his letters online,” Lim writes in an email to Second Chances. “It was the seventh letter where he made amends with his father but by then he was on death row. That one really pulled at my heartstrings and all these images came floating into my mind.”

Inspired by Vui Kong’s “dignity and remorse”, Lim decided to make a film about the death penalty. Entitled ‘Letters from Death Row‘, the film’s goal is to encourage society to re-examine this archaic form of punishment.

“I hope to produce a cinematic experience with a captivating storyline, compelling characters and gripping emotions that will not lull audience into passivity but encourage discussions on the mandatory death penalty and pave the way for change.”

But it’s not easy to make a film, and Lim has had trouble securing sufficient funding. Undeterred, he is planning to launch an online crowd-funding campaign towards the end of March.

Updates on the film can be found on its Facebook page.

A Letter to Singapore from Yong Yun Leong

Yun Leong's letter, page 1

Dear Singapore,

As a family member of Yong Vui Kong, I am greatly comforted and very grateful to learn that Singapore is planning to revise some of its laws at this critical moment. My gratitude to Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hian and the Cabinet for rethinking the use of the Mandatory Death Penalty on drug mules, thus giving my brother a ray of hope. For someone like Vui Kong, death is indeed an overly harsh punishment. Killing a mule does not solve any problems if the mastermind remains at large. Amending the law will instead make Singapore a safer place and lead to a fairer justice system for all.

Vui Kong was a naive 19-year-old when he was lured into becoming a drug mule. His boss started by asking him to collect debts, then told him to deliver “gifts” (drugs). These bad people avoided coming into direct contact with the drugs themselves by placing the risk instead on their mules. Such gangs usually target vulnerable people and I am very sorry that my little brother became their unwitting sacrificial lamb.

Over the past six years, my whole family has been worrying about Vui Kong. We’ve never given up on him and have worked hard for him. This is because we believe my brother was tricked. He was naive and incapable of understanding the seriousness of his crime. Vui Kong didn’t know his boss was making use of him when he delivered the “gifts” (drugs). Till now, Vui Kong’s mother remains unaware that he faces the death penalty. She suffers from severe depression and my family has kept her in the dark. We hope Vui Kong will now be able to escape death so we no longer have to lie to our mother.

Yun Leong's letter, page 2

Vui Kong has embraced Buddhism. Over the past years, he’s become a vegetarian and spends his time studying Buddhist scripture, like a monk. Knowing this gives my family comfort. He is a completely different person from who he was in the past. Vui Kong has repented and is sorry for his past stupidity. We hope authorities can forgive him as he has now turned over a new leaf. Please give Vui Kong, a first-time offender, a second chance. He has changed and will spend the rest of his years doing what he can to support the anti-drug campaign. I believe Vui Kong, who is now a devout Buddhist, can use his experiences to reach out to other young people. He can use himself as an example to tell society about the evils of the drug trade and prevent would-be victims from becoming mules.

I hope the authorities can take into consideration Vui Kong’s youth, family background and other circumstances, before handing out punishment to Vui Kong. He is not a drug lord. He has cooperated and helped identify the real mastermind. I hope that now that the law is going to change, the courts can rethink his punishment and give a repentent Vui Kong, a chance to live.

Yong Yun Leong