MORE Australians would face the hangman if they tried to smuggle heroin through Singapore, the city-state's biggest newspaper said today, in a warning that echoes its government's tough anti-drugs stand.
In a strong defence of Singapore's decision to execute convicted trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen, the Straits Times newspaper also commended Prime Minister John Howard for the "polite" way he had raised concerns about the case.
In an editorial, headlined "Execution of a drug runner", the paper held out no hope for Nguyen, who is scheduled to die next Friday.
"The reality is more Australians can expect to face the death penalty here because too many choose to dice with death," it predicted.
The daily said while it "shared the anguish" of Nguyen's family, Australians needed to understand why the Melbourne man deserved to die for his crime.
The newspaper is Singapore's main English-language daily, and like all the domestic press has intimate links to the governing People's Action Party.
The paper is not "free" in the mainstream Western sense.
It supports what local officials dub nation-building and editorials typically, but not always, reflect government positions.
Today's broadside comes exactly one week before Nguyen, 25, is scheduled to hanged at dawn on next Friday.
The Melbourne man was arrested carrying almost 400 grams of heroin while in transit at Singapore's Changi airport in 2002.
All pleas for clemency have been rejected, and the chances of a reprieve appear almost non-existent.
The newspaper described the looming execution as "churning up a wash of angst from across the seas".
It recommended that "Australians should take an objective look at the crime, not only the punishment".
"The drugs trade is a destroyer of lives and society, vividly so in this region. Australians who have an imperfect understanding of this can only learn to educate themselves."
The editorial praised Mr Howard's "polite" diplomacy, but it also recited the city-state Government's position that it was up to Singapore to choose its own criminal justice system.
"As much as Singaporeans make no judgment on the value of jurisprudence which has served the Australian Commonwealth well, Australians show their breeding by learning to accept what the Singapore situation requires."
The paper's salvo reflects the Singapore Government's more muscular approach in recent days to defending its position on Nguyen's case.
Earlier this week, Singapore's Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi wrote a powerful letter to his Australian counterpart defending the decision not to grant clemency.
And yesterday there was a similar rebuttal from a mid-level minister after he met Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls.
Today's editorial added: "The message has been forthright: Singapore shall not be laid low by narcotics and the drugs trade.
"From this vantage point it would seem all of establishment Australia, from the Howard Government on down, has an ideological problem with Singapore's judicial act of giving the worst drug offenders mandatory death."