Friday, September 27, 2013

The story of Yong Vui Kong - Give Life a 2nd chance

Photo – Yong Vui Kong’s Family Plead for his Life Outside the Istana – Courtesy from

I was touched by a video titled ' Yong Vui Kong's Family Plead for his Life', which goes viral on the internet.

A group of people wearing the T-shirt with slogan 'Give life a 2nd Chance' gathered outside the Istana. After passing over piles of petition signatures to the President's security, Yong Vui Kong's father, brother and sister kneeled down and cried. They pleaded the President to give mercy to Vui Kong, to grant him clemency and spare him from the death penalty.

This scene struck me, and pained me. I could understand their sorrow if I were in their position. 

Yong Vui Kong was about to be hanged, and they had to save him....

Yong's story 

Yong Vui Kong is a Malaysian from Sabah. He is sentenced to death for trafficking 42.27 grams of heroin into Singapore in 2007. He was only 19-year-old then. Anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin faces mandatory death penalty in Singapore. 

In the video titled 'Yong's story', Vui Kong's brother - Yong Yun Leong, told us about Vui Kong.

Yong Vui Kong grew up in Sabah countryside. Yong's family is poor, and parents are divorced. Her mother brought up four children by herself. He has two elder brothers and one younger sister. Vui Kong stopped his studies at a young age, and left for Kuala Lumpur to work when he was just fourteen.

Vui Kong first worked as a kitchen hand, later he started selling pirated CDs. And it was during this time that he started hanging out with gangs. His 'boss' tempted him with money, bought him nice clothes and treated him dinners at hotels. Vui Kong felt he was rich and powerful under his new 'boss'.

Vui Kong needed money. Vui Kong's mother suffers from depression, and he wanted the money to pay for his mother's medical fees.

Working under his new 'boss', he first helped him to collect debts, later he helped to deliver 'gifts'. 'Gifts' refers to drugs which are gift-wrapped.

Yun Leong pleaded in the video. He knows drug trafficking is a serious crime and Vui Kong deserves to be punished. But death penalty is cruel because Vui Kong is a 1st time offender, and was only a naive 19-year-old boy at that time. And because of this silly mistake, there is no turning back, and it is tragic.

Yun Leong said the law in Singapore should look at Vui Kong's case in different angles. They should judge his case based on his family background, his personal story, the fact that he was tempted by his 'boss' and was being controlled by him.

Faith transformed Vui Kong

Yun Leong said Vui Kong understood the meaning of freedom and the pain of losing now that he was in prison. Vui Kong slowly embraced Buddhism, started chanting and meditation. He has been a vegetarian for 6 years. Vui Kong's personality changed after he was exposed to Buddhist's thinking. Vui Kong is now a good kid whom the wardens and his Master doted on.

Below is an extract from a letter Vui Kong - The Fourth Letter: Studying Buddhist Philosophy
"I feel that every young person needs faith. Only with faith can you save yourself, because a good religion, no matter if it’s Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, teaches you what is right and what is wrong. This, to me, is extremely important. When I was a rebel, I didn’t have faith, and so I went astray and followed a path from which there is no return.

Studying Buddhism teaching allows me to understand about gratitude, and about what courage is. To me, this is the biggest experience I gained.

With a soul that found faith, we will be at peace, content, happy, free and full of hope, now, in the future and in the afterlife!"

After taking up Buddhism while in prison, Vui Kong did not want to lie to save himself. And he once instructed his counsel to withdraw the appeal.

Vui Kong's mother does not know about his death sentence. When her mother came to Singapore and visited him in prison. Vui Kong told her mother to give up on him, and not to think about him, he would be leaving with his Master to seek enlightenment. He does not want her mother to be worried about him, and live well.

Vui Kong drew pictures of Lord Buddha standing at the gates of hell, saving souls from eternal damnation. He understood what he did was a sin, and he is now having his retribution. He is remorseful and his greatest wish is to join the anti-drug campaign and guide other young people back to the right path.

Below is an extract from a letter Vui Kong wrote about The Importance of Education
: (translated into English, and published on

"I was a rebellious youth who never had a proper education, unfamiliar with the sentencing of different offenses. Because I lacked education and knowledge, I was tricked by others into believing that smuggling drugs would not attract the death penalty, which is why I in all my ignorance made mistakes upon mistakes!’

Although compared to others I might seem unprivileged because I never received a proper education; but I think that it is not too late to start now.

Now, I don’t want to make any more mistakes. Every day I read a lot of books, learning new things like English, and I keep meditating."

"If the presidential clemency is granted, what I would like to do the most is to tell the world about the dangers of drugs and how sinful drugs are." Yong said.

Rethinking about the use of the mandatory death penalty on drug couriers

Vui Kong's boss, Chia Choon Leng was once faced with 26 drug-related charges. But the charges were dropped due to the difficulty to obtain evidence. The alleged mastermind is still enjoying freedom. But those ignorant, naive young boys he controlled are facing death because they helped him to deliver the drugs. It is time we rethink about the use of the mandatory death penalty on drug couriers.

Below is an extract from a letter Vui Kong wrote about drugs and the death penalty: (translated into English, and published on

"My lawyer Mr Ravi also mentioned him before. His story is like this: after Chun Ying’s parents divorced, Chun Yin stayed with his father, helping his father run stalls selling clothes and VCDs in morning and night markets. He got to know a regular customer. This regular customer convinced him to go overseas and bring gold bars into Singapore. All the arrangements were made by this customer. But it turned out that hidden in the bag were not gold bars, but drugs. Chun Yin did not know that it was drugs hidden in the bag until the police ripped open the lining. He told the court all the details of the matter, and also revealed the identity of the customer and his phone numbers. But the judge did not believe him. My lawyer told me that the police had not done their best to trace this customer, and the judge did not think that it was important.

I am not a lawyer, but I cannot understand, why didn’t they trace this man? Often it is because of people like him that we are in such a situation. If this man was found, wouldn’t we be able to find out if Chun Yin was telling the truth or not? Chun Yin is currently locked inside here, how can he find the truth himself?

I am beginning to wonder, are there really people who have been wronged? Are all the sentences really fair? If a person has been wronged and hanged, isn’t it very tragic?

I have mentioned my next-door inmate before. He was very young, and he had already died. We talked about a lot of things. He never mentioned his case, but I feel that he was a very naïve, very ignorant kid. He could not face death. That morning at 3am, he was dragged out. His crying really made my heart ache. I kept chanting, hoping that his suffering would be decreased. I wonder, how could a person like him be a drug trafficker out to harm society?"

In November 2012, the Singapore parliament has made amendments to the mandatory death sentences in drug trafficking.

The Courts have the discretion to sentence him to death or to life imprisonment (with caning in some cases), if:

(i) the accused is found to be only a drug courier, and
(ii) the accused has substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau (“CNB”) to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore, or the accused proves that he was suffering from such abnormality of mind that it substantially impaired his mental responsibility for committing the offence.

But the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking kingpins and organisers of syndicates maintained.
Give Vui Kong a 2nd chance

Recently, the Central Narcotics Bureau had issued certificate of substantive assistance to Yong Vui Kong, for his effort in assisting the CNB to disrupt drug trafficking within and outside Singapore. Vui Kong might be spared the death penalty.

Below is the Statement from M Ravi, lawyer for Yong Vui Kong:

"The news of the certificate for Yong Vui Kong came as a tremendous relief to me and to those who have been fighting to spare his life since Vui Kong's arrest when he was 19 year's old. Certainly he deserves the Court's exception from death as his case clearly illustrates the injustice of the Mandatory Death Penalty regime in Singapore's war on drugs. This young man has spent years on death row while others, more responsible than him, have never been so much as charged by the Public Prosecutor."

"We are very grateful today to Vui Kong, his family & anti-death penalty advocates in Singapore & around the world for never giving up on the possibility that Yong could live. We now have another day in Court to make the case that Vui Kong's life should be spared."

Perhaps there are people who think that he is like another piece of scum that should be wiped off.

But according to famous quote by Henry Ward Beecher - 'Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation'.

“Punishment and Justice must always include MERCY” – Sister Susan Chia
(Carer of the Nugyens family – Van Tuong Nguyen, a Vietnamese Australian, was hanged to death on 2 December 2005, for trafficking 396.2 g of heroin into Singapore)

Life is to be cherished. Give life a second chance.