Nguyen Tuong Van

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Nguyen Tuong Van was a 25 year old Vietnamese-Australian executed by hanging on December 2, 2005 by the government of Singapore. He was the first Australian citizen to be executed in 12 years. Nguyen Tuong Van was arrested at Singpore's Changi Airport on December 12, 2002 while en route from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Melbourne, Australia and charged with smuggling 14 ounces of heroin hidden in his backpack. According to a December 2, 2005 Associated Press news report the young saleman from Melborne have may been smuggling to help pay off of the debts owed by his twin brother.

In the months leading up to the execution some courageous Australian government officials, including Victoria state Attorney-General Rob Hulls, made repeated but unsuccessful appeals to Singaporean government officials, including Singapore's Justice Minister Ho Peng Kee to save young man's life.

However, the conservative (Australian Liberal Party) national government of Prime Minister John Howard proved les than energetic. Howard stated that his government would not take diplomatic action against Singpoare but that the execution would have "people-to people, population-to-population" effects. In the past Howard has referred to Asutralians caught with drugs abroad as "stupid," an implicit invitation to foreign governments to treat them harshly.

According to a report in the Townsville Bulletin/Townsville Sun, the mother of Nguyen Tuong Van, Nguyen Kim, broke down in tears at news of her son's probable execution. "She is distraught, she is distressed and, you know, it would be impossible to imagine how difficult it must be for her." Dr. Chee Soon Juan, the leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party and death penalty opponent, said no stone should go unturned in seeking clemency for the young man. "Anything that can be looked at should be done." Source: "Nguyen Giving Up Hope as Bids Fail," Townsville Bulletin/Townsville Sun (Australia). Friday, November 25, 2005.

Nguyen's Tuong Van was held in Changi prison before his execution in the same location. His Australian attorney was Lex Lasry QC and his priest was Father Gregoire Van Giange. He will be buried in Melborne after a public funeral in St. Patrick's Catholic Cathedral in East Melbourne. The church is the site where the Nguyen family and over 1000 people prayed in November for her Nguyen Tuong Van's life to be spared.

I addition to the international moral revulsion against Singapore's use if the death penalty as punishment for drug smuggling offenses, controversy surrounds the country's chief executioner, Darshin Singh. Responsible for some 850 state killings in 46 years, Singh threatened to bring legal action for wrongful dismissal against the government of Singapore if he is dismissed from his position. In October his identity was revealed in an article published by The Australian.

Singapore's authoritarian one party government has a reputation for official barbarism with respect to non-white collar crime. More than 100 people been executed for drug related crimes in Singapore since 1999. Condemned prisoners are killed by using the "long drop" hanging method inherited from Singapore's former British colonial masters. Servants often imitate their masters. Australia ended execution in 1973 and conducted its last hanging in 1967. Hopefully the legal system of Singapore will become less primitive in future, perhaps by following the example of civilized Australia.

References

  • Kellee Nolan & Danny Rose. "Nguyen's Mother Avoids Media." The Courier-Mail. December 5, 2005.
  • n.a. "Nguyen's Family Returns Home." ABC News Online Story
  • Christopher Torcha. "Australian Smuggler Executed in Singapore." Associated Press. December 2, 2005.
  • Russell Robinson. "Terrified Walk to a Long-Drop Execution." The Daily Telegraph. December 1, 2005.
  • n.a. "Australia Official Seeks Mercy for Citizen." Associated Press. November 23, 2005
  • Alan Shadrake & Elizabeth Colman. "Hangman to Sue If Sacked." The Australian. November 30, 2005.
  • Rod McGurk. "Howard Calls Aussie Drug Carriers "Stupid"." Associated Press. August 25, 2005.

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