Next Friday, Singapore plans to hang Van Tuong Nguyen, a 25 year old man from Glen Waverley, the Melbourne suburb where I grew up. Nguyen’s crime against the state of Singapore was to change planes in Singapore while en route from Cambodia to Australia carrying 396 grams of heroin. I can see, dimly, how doing this kind of thing could be a crime against Cambodia, and a crime against Australia, but I can’t see how this kind of action could justifiably be punished by Singapore, when he hadn’t even passed through passport control into Singapore and clearly had no intention of doing so.
And of course even if we do think Singapore is justified in punishing Nguyen for his crimes, the idea that hanging is the appropriate punishment for attempting to sell heroin would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. Either Singapore should hang people for putting together plans to commit murder, or they are implying that drug trading is worse than murder. Either option is nonsensical.
Anyway, at this stage the important thing isn’t to debate just how absurd Singapore’s position is, but to do something. Amnesty International Australia has a number of links for writing to the salient Singaporese ministers to beg for them to change their minds. The very least one could expect our government to be doing is not doing more favours for the Singapore government while they plan to murder an Australian, but that seems too much for John Howard, even when proposed by one of his own MPs.