27 Oct 2005

Singapore defends death penalty decision

This is a transcript from PM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio.

You can also listen to the story in REAL AUDIO and WINDOWS MEDIA and MP3 formats.

From abc.net.au
PM - Thursday, 27 October , 2005 18:10:22

Reporter: Peta Donald
MARK COLVIN: The slim chance of a reprieve for Van Nguyen, who faces death by hanging in Singapore, looks even slimmer tonight.

Singapore has made its first official comment since rejecting a plea for clemency last week, and it offers not even a smidgin of hope to the young man.

The 25-year-old former salesman from Melbourne was found in transit in Singapore with almost 400 grams of heroin strapped to his body.

Today's statement, from Singapore's High Commissioner in Canberra, said Singapore's death penalty for drug offences was well known and defended the decision to send Nguyen to the gallows.

In a moment we'll hear from Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, for his response, but first here's a report on today's development from Peta Donald in Canberra.

PETA DONALD: In Singapore executions are carried out on Fridays.

As he waits in a cell in Changi Prison, the condemned Australian Van Nguyen will take no comfort from today's statement from Singapore's High Commission in Canberra.

The High Commissioner Joseph Koh has issued a strong defence of the decision against granting clemency in this case.

JOSEPH KOH STATEMENT (read by actor): Our strict anti-drug laws send a clear message to drug syndicates not to conduct their criminal activities in Singapore or through Singapore. Our policy has been well-publicised and Mr Nguyen was well aware of it.

PETA DONALD: Mr Nguyen, the High Commissioner points out was caught with 396 grams of heroin, more than the 15 grams that attracts a mandatory death penalty in Singapore.

JOSEPH KOH STATEMENT (read by actor): I understand that this decision is difficult for his family to accept. But the stand the Government has taken on Mr Nguyen is consistent with the firm position that Singapore has taken on similar cases in the past, involving Singaporeans and foreigners alike. Not everyone may agree with our view, but I hope they will understand Singapore's position.

PETA DONALD: Nguyen's Melbourne-based barrister, Lex Lasry, QC, is still holding out hope.

LEX LASRY: We regard the statement as predictable. It's what I would expect the Singapore Government, through the High Commissioner would say, as at today.

I certainly don't see it as in anyway an end of the process. It's a statement, a diplomatic statement, as to their current attitude and we set out to change it.

PETA DONALD: It does seem like a fairly serious development for your client though, that doesn't leave very much room for hope.

LEX LASRY: Well, I don't agree with that.

I think we haven't yet had a chance to redevelop the argument that we've announced we're going to make.

We will make a further approach to the Singapore Government, directly to the President and possibly to the High Commissioner. Now we haven't done that yet, so the Singapore High Commission can't be expected to respond to that.

They have obviously had plenty of media inquiries and they've stated their position as at today, but that position can be changed and we do aim to change it.

PETA DONALD: Lex Lasry is planning to approach Singapore's Government in the next few days.

He says he's pleased with the political support being offered in Australia, but he's still calling for more.

LEX LASRY: What would make us happier and what would help considerably would be if the Prime Minister would make a clear statement that in his opinion our client should not be executed for the reasons that we've given now over a number of days.

I think the Singapore Government would be impressed that a man of the standing of our Prime Minister would be prepared to say that.

PETA DONALD: Have you had any indication from Mr Howard as to whether he'd be prepared to do that?

LEX LASRY: No we haven't, but I… as a human being, I'd ask him to. This is a man's life that's at stake, it's a life we want to save, it's a life that is valuable.

And I understand Mr Howard's opposition to capital punishment and I think it's time for someone of that seniority to speak directly about his feelings about it.

PETA DONALD: But whatever approaches are made, Singapore has a long history of withstanding pressure to save the lives of those it's decided to send to the gallows.

Professor Garry Rodan, the Director of the Asia Research Centre, at Murdoch University, says Singapore is unlikely to buckle.

He points to the case of Singaporean father of two executed earlier this year for a drug conviction, despite a public campaign in Singapore against it.

GARRY RODAN: It doesn't want to give encouragement to advocacy groups, such as those involved in the attempt to have the clemency awarded for the Singapore national who was facing execution. And any concession at all, even if it is in this case to pressure from outside, might be thought by the Singapore Government as a source of encouragement for advocacy groups in general.

MARK COLVIN: Professor Garry Rodan from Murdoch University with Peta Donald.


Anonymous said...

"Nguyen admitted he acted as a drugs courier, but only to help his twin brother pay off the equivalent of $19,000 in debts to loan sharks."

Does anybody know why did his twin brother owe so much to the loan sharks? is it due to gambling? Any reply pls?

soci said...

I believe it might be gambling. I remember reading something last year. Let me check if it has been restated recently.

Anonymous said...

All the Aussies are expounding is that death sentences are cruel and inhumane, without regard for the laws of our land. If South East Asian nations like Indonesia, Malaysia and ours aren't tough on drugs and drug-trafficking, SEA would just be another playground for those whiteassed crackheads who think they can do what they like around these parts. And I don't need people dealing crack here like Down Under.

And anyway why did't the Aussies educate their dumb citizens a bit? Go read the news about supposedly clean and innocent Aussies getting arrested in Indonesia, Malyasia and motherfucking everywhere on possesions of drugs. Draw your own conclusions. Hey, it wasn't only recently that SEA nations deal out death penalties for cases like this, you know?

IT IS Australia's fault for not educating their dumb druggies and cleaning up their act. Don't blame the S'pore govt for succeeding on where you clearly failed - your own citizens.

Go on, boycott us if you want to, if you're that shallow. You Aussie losers can take your drug money elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, why did Van Nguyen has to resort to trafficking drugs to help his brother who's in debt?? Is that serious or what? Did anyone dig into this? I mean, in debt from what? Aussie banks? Aussie casinos? Aussie loansharks? I dunno.. but Aussie creditors, that I'm sure.

Oh! Unless it's the Australian government who has failed him first!! Don't you get it? Van Nguyen's political leaders have failed him and now they're pushing the blame to us, saying we are barbaric and have 'middle ages' law. Laughable. We all know how Australia treats her immigrants. I mean, Van Nguyen was 'just' an immigrant before this case, wasn't he?

So will the ignorant and weed-crazy Aussies stop stuffing your liberal talking points down our throats please? I hear y'all already! I know you lot are really against the death penalty, and would grant a repreive to a Colombian drug lord if you could.

soci said...

well there goes the anonymous comments facility...

If you are wondering why read the above.

soci said...

these comments are moderated.

I have left an example of one use of vitriolic comments and removed another..

This is not a game of Grand Theft Auto.

カイ said...

Actually I think both anonymous comments had some truth although the language could have been toned down a little.

Think Singaporean said...


do u know the reason why his brother has borrowed so much money from loansharks? pls provide more details asap.

soci said...

yes noni but you haven't seen the third comment that was removed.

Mistaken person said...


i'm not noni but Think Singaporean, two different persons. Pls don't mistaken.

Think Singaporean

soci said...

sorry think sg, I was referring to the comment above yours.

as for finding out about why his brother owed so much money, I will try now, but rather busy answering emails.

Beach-yi said...

Doe sit matter why the brother owe money? Is that even relevant?

Why am I going back to a land of idiots? Sigh...

Think Singaporean said...

Hi beach-yi

why not? Nobody would like to borrow such a big sum of money for no reasons, for which we don't know at all. Most of the time, people would speculate it to be for gambling debts. However, we can't assume at all. As far as I know, these loansharks can be very inhuman, they could pressurise and drive their clients "up to the end of the road" if unable to repay the loans to them. I'm sure you know the recent incident that one sg men not only had to kill himself but also his wife and two children because he was in total distress. Yes, you may think that one should not borrow money from the loansharks or even to resort to drug trafficking. However, when one is under such circumstances, one may have no choice but to resort to do foolish actions, like Nyuyen. We are not them, so we cannot fully understand what they're going through. However, we can always try to put ourselves in the shoes of others. I'd personally witnessed a number of cases like this. So, I could understand how they feel.

So, if you're not interested to know all these, please stay away from this blog and don't get yourself irritated. It'd be better to go and enjoy your shopping spree at Orchard Rd.
By the way, one who calls others "idiot" is indeed an idiot himself.


soci said...

For those of you interested...

from http://www.thesundaymail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,17077299%255E903,00.html

Drug mule's pal tells of loan
THE man whom drug mule Tuong Van Nguyen was trying to repay has told of his guilt over his friend's execution soon in Singapore.

Student Jonathan Lim says he loaned his friend of eight years about $20,000.

He said Nguyen (pictured) wanted cash because he was desperate to pay off his twin brother Khoa's legal costs and other debts.

In 1999, Khoa Nguyen was convicted of trafficking heroin.

Mr Lim said he was happy to lend a hand, dipping into an inheritance left by his father.

"He put himself out there for me, he's always been there when I needed support," Mr Lim said.

"I didn't know who he owed money or what they were capable of – I never thought he would end up in jail, about to lose his life."

Nguyen, 25, is on death row for trying to smuggle 396g of heroin out of Singapore in December 2002. He told police he did it to repay a friend.

"He did not press me for payment, but I knew he needed the money," Nguyen said.

He had managed to repay $4000 through money saved from his sales work, but became desperate as the deadline approached.

Mr Lim said Nguyen had written to him from his Changi prison cell to apologise.

"I said, 'Don't worry about it'. I feel bad in a way, because he did it to pay me back.

"Van says I didn't pressure him, but I did mention it every now and then because I thought of it as my dad's money."

Mr Lim said Nguyen, who was born in a Thai refugee camp, should be spared.

"Van has a good heart and he was a victim of circumstances in some ways.

"He's had a hard life and he's made a couple of bad decisions – he's not a lifetime criminal."

Appeals for mercy from Prime Minister John Howard to Singapore President S. R. Nathan and PM Lee Hsien Loong have failed.