How Strong Is Public Support for the Death Penalty in Singapore?

12 November, 2019

In 2007 at the young age of 19, Malaysian Yong Vui Kong was arrested for smuggling 47.27 grams of heroin into Singapore. After a prolonged court case that stretched until 14 November 2013, he became the first drug trafficker on Singapore’s death row to avoid the death penalty, with his sentence reduced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane.

Vui Kong’s case has coincided with a rising trend towards abolishing the death penalty worldwide. However, with Singapore keen to maintain an uncompromising stance towards serious crime, the country is put in a tight spot. It is clear that the government needs to garner support from its citizens to justify the implementation of the death penalty.

Associate Professor Chan Wing Cheong (NUS Law), Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser (NUS Sociology), and their co-authors published ‘How Strong Is Public Support for the Death Penalty in Singapore?’ (Asian Journal of Criminology, 2018), which reports on findings from a survey conducted in 2016 on Singaporean citizens’ knowledge of and support for the death penalty. In the survey, Singaporeans were found to favour the death penalty despite knowing very little about it and acknowledging that they did not have much interest in it. This was consistent with other studies conducted in the USA and Japan. Interestingly, there was less support for the death penalty when respondents were faced with case-by-case scenarios which actually necessitated the death penalty under the current law.

The findings illustrated that although Singaporeans favoured the death penalty in general terms, it is not an opinion that they hold firmly, especially when provided with more details. The authors conclude that Singaporeans’ opinions on the death penalty must be understood in greater detail instead of assuming that they wholeheartedly support it.

Read the article here.