Category Archives: Yong Vui Kong

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

Three Mules, The MDP And The Mysterious Chia Choon Leng

The following was first published on the Lianain Films blog:

His name was Lee Siaw Foo. Not many people know of him. Why should they? He was just a lowly drug courier from Sabah, who in the early hours of 28 August 2009, was dragged kicking and screaming out of his cell in Changi Prison, and into the execution chamber. His crime – trafficking 38.49 grams of diamorphine, or heroin, into Singapore.

We know about Lee’s final hours only because of his friend and fellow inmate, Yong Vui Kong. The two Sabahans had known each other back in Malaysia and Yong had spent the entire night trying to convince Lee to meditate, to calm down, find some semblance of peace. That never happened. Lee faced death, a quivering, terror-stricken mess.

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Somewhere in Changi Prison, there’s an inmate called Koh Bak Kiang. Like Lee, he was a drug runner. Koh was busted on 4 April 2007, at a shopping centre in the eastern part of Singapore. Unlike Lee though, he was not sentenced to death.

Prior to Koh’s arrest, officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau found 45 packets of a white substance inside his car. Separately, they also recovered a brown envelope that Koh had delivered to a shop earlier that day. Tests concluded that the packets contained no less than 14.99 grams of diamorphine, as did the brown envelope.

14.99 grams. Such a precise number. A whisker shy of the 15 grams that under Singapore law, would automatically lead to the imposition of the Mandatory Death Penalty. Koh was instead sentenced to 25 years in prison and 24 strokes of the cane. Court documents show that he worked for a man called Chia Choon Leng and Chia’s wife, Lim Jessie.

It was also revealed that:

“The accused later came to know that Chia had also recruited 3 other persons Lee Kwee Siong, Yong Ket Wui and Lee Siaw Foo [emphasis mine] as runners.”

And that:

“…the accused had cooperated with the authorities and was willing to be a prosecution witness in the forthcoming trial against Chia.”

Chia however, was never tried. In fact, two months later, he arranged yet another delivery from Johor Bahru to Singapore. The runner, this time, was 19-year-old Yong Vui Kong. He was caught on 13 June 2007, with gift-wrapped packages containing no less than 47.27 grams of diamorphine.

During investigations, Yong named Chia as his boss but fearing for his and his family’s safety, essentially declined to testify against him in court.

Yong didn’t know it then, but Chia was also being held during this time and was facing 26 drug-related charges – five of them linked to Yong’s own case. Ultimately though, all were dropped, due to what the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) describes as “the difficulty of the evidence”. Authorities have instead detained Chia under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. He will likely be freed in a few years.

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Three drug runners. One common link – Chia Choon Leng.

Malaysian, Lee is dead. Koh, a Singaporean, has received a caning he’ll never forget and will be in jail for a long while more. Yong is likely to hang unless Singapore’s Cabinet decides to grant him clemency.

But Chia? Why was he never charged? And what of his wife, Lim Jessie?

Not a whole lot of information is available. What we can surmise is that Chia was no small fry. He had runners he could control, and access to drugs and clients. In fact, documents provided by the AGC to Yong’s lawyer show that Chia was initially charged with abetting Yong.

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In Yong’s latest appeal to Singapore’s highest court, his lawyer, M. Ravi, questioned the AGC’s decision to slap Yong, the mule, with a capital offense while withdrawing all charges against Chia, the alleged mastermind. Ravi argued that his client’s constitutional right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law had been violated as a result.

The Court dismissed the motion, saying among other things, that it had “absolutely no merit both on the law and on the facts”. It also made clear that even if it were to agree with Yong and find that his constitutional rights had been breached, it did not have the power to set aside Yong’s conviction. Instead the AGC would have to decide what action to take in order to remedy the situation.

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The ruling means that Yong’s days could well be numbered – a decision on his clemency petition is due anytime now. It also gives us a sense of the breath and depth of the AGC’s discretionary powers. Chia has been linked to at least three cases. It remains a mystery why he has not been tried. Perhaps we will never have answers. What we do know is that at least one of Chia’s mules has been hanged. Another awaits his fate.

“Yong wants to understand,” says Ravi, “why he has to die when his boss isn’t even charged? What happens when Chia is released? Will he recruit even more mules? Vui Kong doesn’t want another kid like him to hang.”

These are pertinent concerns. After all, the MDP has often been justified as a deterrent against drug trafficking. How useful is it if mules are killed while known masterminds go free? Perhaps it is worth remembering that when the Misuse of Drugs Act was amended in 1975 to include the Mandatory Death Penalty, then-Home Affairs Minister Chua Sian Chin said, “It [the MDP] is not intended to sentence petty morphine and heroin peddlers to death.”