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Judicial CP - April 2014

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Bangkok Post, Thailand, 29 April 2014

Singapore's caning punishment

Dickson Tan's caned buttocks
Singapore's justice system also sentences convicts to be caned (Reuters photo)

Singapore's justice system is notorious for its use of the death penalty, but it also sentences convicts to be caned.

Eligible offences include drug trafficking, vandalism, rioting and overstaying a visa by more than 90 days.

Only male offenders aged 16 to 50 can be caned, and the number of strokes is limited to 24, delivered in a single session.

The rattan canes are 1.2 metres long with a thickness of 1.2 centimetres. They are soaked in water to be heavier, more flexible and produce a lash effect.

A lighter cane is used on convicts aged 16 to 18, for a maximum of 10 strokes.

The offender is tied face-first to a wooden trestle, with the buttocks exposed but padding over the lower back to protect the kidneys.

He is examined to ensure medical fitness, and a doctor is present and can stop the caning at any time.

The government does not publish statistics on corporal punishment. The 2013 US State Department Human Rights Report on Singapore said 2,500 people were sentenced in 2012, with 2,203 canings carried out, including 1,070 foreigners caned for immigration offences.

There is usually little public discussion of caning, but recent high-profile cases have attracted some international attention.

The caning of United States teenager Michael Fay for vandalism in 1994 strained US-Singapore relations, while the 2010 caning of Swiss national Oliver Fricker for spray-painting a train drew criticism even from Singaporeans.


Last week, Malaysian drug courier Yong Vui Kong appealed against his sentence to 15 strokes, after his death sentence was commuted, with his lawyer describing caning as "torture" and unconstitutional.

Rachel Zeng from the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign said corporal punishment has "definitely failed" as a deterrent.

The system should commit to "rehabilitating and reforming individuals who have committed crimes," she said, "instead of one that is all about humiliating these individuals."

But the government has long defended its use of corporal punishment.

"Across the board we have draconian punishment: caning, imprisonment, the death penalty," Law Minister K Shanmugam told parliament in 2012.

"The result: we are one of the few countries in the world where the drug menace has been fought reasonably successfully -- not won, you can never say that these things are won -- but reasonably successful, and certainly not lost."

© 2014 The Post Publishing PCL

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