Van Tuong Nguyen was hanged this morning at Singapore’s Changi Prison for smuggling heroin into the country while in transit to Australia. There is no doubt as to his guilt, the bag of heroin, after all, was strapped to his body. He claimed that he agreed to be a mule to pay off his debts owed by his twin brother (a former heroin addict). It was his first and last run-in with the law.

The bell tolled 25 times for him (one for each year of his life) at precisely 9 A.M. local time, the time of his execution. Yes, he did wrong. Yes, he could have ruined a lot of lives had he been successful in bringing in the heroin he was carrying into Australia and the drugs he was carrying was sold in the streets. Yes, he was foolish. Yes, he should have been punished for his crime. Yes, it was unfortunate that Singapore penalises drug traffickers with death. Yes, the government seemed to have done everything it could for him. Yes, I was glad that his mother was able to hold his hand during her last visit.

On the other hand, no, I don’t agree that he should be honoured as there was nothing honourable in what he did. No, I don’t think a boycott of Singapore’s products and services is the right thing to do. No, I don’t think one country should dictate nor attempt to bend a neighbouring country’s laws just because one of its citizens got in trouble. No, I don’t think the Howard government could have done anything more for him. No, I don’t believe in making a scapegoat out of him. Saying that a drug trafficker is responsible for the deaths of the many addicts that they supply drugs to is almost akin to saying that gun sellers should be held responsible for all the murders or suicide of people who died from the use of a gun.

After all has been said and done, I’m not sure if I support the type of punishment he got or not. I’ve heard and read about the views of both sides and understand each camp’s reasons for supporting or not supporting his hanging. What I do know is that people learn by making mistakes and that people could change.

I’m deeply saddened that Nguyen would never have the chance to redeem himself. My sympathies to his family and friends.

Published in: on December 2, 2005 at 12:00 pm  Comments (6)  

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. @nussh: :)) kakatawa talaga comments mo! Been busy these past few days and hadn’t have the time to read my emails, let alone reply to comments. 8-|

    Naisip ko nga rin yun, kung sa Manila nahuli si Nguyen, siguradong buhay sya. Although drug trafficking is also punishable by death in the Philippines, nobody has been executed since year 2000. Convicts on death-row has been given one reprieve after another. Isa pa, malamang pag napakiusapan na ni Howard si Arroyo, tiyak bibigay yun.

  2. @Abner: Thanks for reading the post, although I don’t know if I do agree with what you said that death should be meted out to all drug smugglers. While I do agree that drugs could ruin a lot of lives, there are other factors to consider as to why a person would even try it. Perhaps we, as a society, may be part of the problem too and choose to point the finger at the smugglers because it is easy.

    Mules are usually after the quick buck and are usually foolish or desperate, as in the case of Nguyen. All too often though, they are the ones who get caught and get punished while the big bosses get away with it.

    At the heart of this issue is the question of whether mandatory capital punishment should be meted out. The law in Singapore dictates that anyone caught of smuggling should be hanged. But when Singapore followed what their law says, a lot of people think that it is extreme in Nguyen’s case, that it is cold and harsh. People against his execution argue that Nguyen’s case should be viewed differently because it is his first offence and he did it only because he wanted to help out his brother. Following this line of thinking, one could argue that people make the law and could alter the law by speaking out against it. Which was why a lot of people spoke out when Nguyen was about to be hanged. For what is the law, really? According to m-w.com, the law is a binding custom or practice of a community : a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority. It is for the people and by the people, which is why some societies have the jury system.

    On the other hand, the lady of justice has always been depicted with a blindfold to symbolise that law and punishment should be impartial and fair, without prejudice or corruption. So why should Nguyen’s case be any different from that of any other drug smugglers? If Singapore relented and pardoned him, would another sob story be sufficient to get another smuggler off the hook? The jury system also has faults and some criminals are still free because juries made errors in judgment.

    As I’ve said, I am conflicted in this issue and could argue both sides with no end in sight. My aim in writing the post is mirror this internal conflict and express my sadness in what happened to Nguyen.

    As for the other Aussies getting involved in drug-related problems overseas, I think it maybe a case of youth’s optimism, a belief that they could get away with it and that what happened to others wouldn’t happen to them. Hopefully the media coverage of the these cases serve as a reminder that it could happen to anyone and that they should stay well away of drugs.

  3. Hi Raqs ( naks as in close tayo;))
    di ka nag comment kay abs? Somehow I’m wondering how 1 retorts to such a comment. :)>-
    Hindi kaya nagkamali sya ng pagpili ng connecting flight??? Kung Manila kinuha niya nakalusot kaya sya…:-?

  4. well said! nicely written topic. i share the same sentiments, van nguyen do not deserve to be in the headlines. he only got what he deserved… death to all drug smugglers!

    what i can’t comprehend is despite of all the news (corby, leslie, bali 9..etc) australians continue to commit the stupidity of smuggling drugs.

    kailan kaya sila matututo???:-?

  5. @Luchie: Thanks! I had to think long and hard about that entry that I almost quit writing it by the time I got to the middle. Such a sad topic and turn of events.

  6. Well written. I agree with what you stateed here.:)>-

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: