British man sentenced to 'barbaric' 24 strokes of the cane on his bare buttocks over drugs offences in Singapore
Singapore stands out for its use of caning as a disciplinary measure in prisons, and to punish male convicts under 50 years of age if they are found guilty of a wide range of crime
Caning has been a widely used form of legal corporal punishment in Singapore ever since the British colonial rule, and it seems that the rule has backfired. This time a former British ex-public schoolboy, London-born Ye Ming Yuen, is at the center of a major diplomatic row after being sentenced to 24 strokes of the cane on his bare buttocks for drug offenses in Singapore.
As the case has quite expectedly sparked the early flames of a rift between the UK and Singapore, it has also compelled Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his officials to intervene in the case as they "strongly oppose the use of corporal punishment".
Judicial caning is one of the most severe forms of corporal punishments in Singapore, and while Malaysia and Brunei, too, are known for their insensitiveness when it comes to punishing the guilty, Singapore stands out for its use of caning as a disciplinary measure in prisons, and to punish male convicts under 50 years of age if they are found guilty for a wide range of crimes under their Criminal Procedure Code. It is also used as a form of legal punishment for minor crimes in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) where it is conducted in the SAF Detention Barracks.
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Yuen, who is known to have been a student at a £37,000-a-year Westminster school, was convicted of seven drug offenses, including trafficking, and his punishment was initially set as the death penalty. However, it was rejected when it was found that the net weight of the drugs involved was below 500g. Yuen is now being held at Changi Prison where he will be subjected to maximum caning as his buttocks will be flogged 24 times with a 4ft-long rattan cane.
Yuen was first arrested over drug offenses in August 2016. According to the report, his offenses include two counts of "repeat drug trafficking" - one of 69g and one of 60g of cannabis. Another offense included drug trafficking of 15g of crystal meth.
In his comment to Daily Mail, he mentioned that he fell in the hands of a wrong group. "I was misled in my youth, in an environment surrounded by drugs, to fall into the dark lure of addiction, oblivious to the hold it had on me." However, his sister claimed that in December the prison guards went to impose his caning sentence on two occasions without any warning but Yuen said it was against his human rights and they didn't proceed with the punishment. But she said the authorities don't give any advance warning of caning and said it is "mentally torturous" as it "could happen any day".
Foreign Secretary Hunt had reportedly raised Yuen's case with Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan while visiting the country last week, and Foreign Office officials have made representations on the British man's behalf.