Friday, December 02, 2005

Sick, Sad World

A horrible thing happened in Singapore yesterday. The country has some of the strictest anti-drug laws in the world, and even knowing that Austrailian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van tried to smuggle 14 ounces of heroin through the Changi Airport in 2002. He was arrested, tried, and condemned to death. In Singapore, carrying more than .53 ounces of heroin carries a mandatory death sentence. Fourteen ounces can supply 26,000 hits of the drug and has a street value of $800,000. The 25 year old man was hanged just before dawn on Friday morning, despite numerous appeals from the Austrailian government for clemency.

In a somewhat related case British pop star Gary Glitter is waiting in a Vietnamese jail after being arrested for having sex with a twelve year old girl. Glitter has been jailed in Britain after a child pornography conviction, and expelled from Cambodia for allegedly having sex with minors. In the Vietnamese case, if convicted he could face anything from 5 years in prison, to death by a firing squad.

It would appear that the smaller countries of the world are growing weary of their reputations for lawlessness and anarchy. I think Nguyen's death was a horrific tragedy, but what did he expect? Either he was ignorant of the penalties of drug trafficking in Singapore, or he ignored them. Whichever it was, he was foolish, and payed the ultimate price for that foolishness. And Glitter, well I guess he thought he could indulge his sickness in the third world where no one would care about what he did to the children there. I don't think a firing squad is called for, but 5 years in a Vietnamese prison might just cure him of his pedophillia.

Sorry this isn't funny today, hopefully tomorrow.



pikaresque said...

Oh, I don't know.
Hitler burning to death while he hid in a bunker is funny.
Why not firing squad VS child rapist?
Or Drug Dealer VS rope?
Christians VS Lions?
I could go on..I usually do.
War monger VS impeachment?

Keep those "fun-facts" coming!

Dave said...

Socially, exaggeration is often whimsical. But when a government dramatically inflates numbers to help justify a death sentence, the integrity of both the trial and its governing body becomes questionable. In this case, the government is Singapore, the trial was for Van Tuong Nguyen, and the bloated number is 26,000.

Press from around the world quotes Abdullah Tarmugi, the Speaker of Singapore Parliament, in writing about the potential consequences of Van's actions, "almost 400 grams of pure heroin, enough for more than 26,000 doses."

But how was 26,000 doses (or "hits") derived?

It turns out that what constitutes a hit of heroin is not an easy thing to count. There are dozens of factors to consider; contact your local Needle Exchange for a comprehensive list. However, after collecting statistics from over a dozen sources (including police reports, narcotics web sites, health information, and workers from needle exchanges), the number of hits from a gram of pure heroin averages out to little more than 14.

Van Tuong Nguyen trafficked 396.2 grams of heroin into Singapore. This is approximately 5,600 doses.

The numbers 5,600 and 26,000 are obviously incongruous, as are reports that 400 grams of heroin would "ruin 26,000 lives". In fact, 400 grams of heroin would not come close to ruining even 5,600 lives. Rather, the heroin would most likely supply people already abusing it. With a little more research, we can estimate how many lives would be adversely affected by 400 grams of heroin during one year:

As many as 67, and as few as 6.

Van Tuong Nguyen would not have sent 26,000 people to their deaths from 400 grams of heroin. Nor would the lives of 26,000 people have been ruined. Far more likely is that six people would get a year's worth of hits. And for this he was executed?

Call it dreadful, call it dense, call it incomprehensible ... but do not call it justice.

Marius said...

Thanks for the clarification, Dave. I thought those numbers seemed awfully high, and I should have checked them out.