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December 02, 2005


Chris Brooke

"It was all about Face. Whatever fancy terms political scientists or politicians can coin..."

It's not so obvious that the political scientists are wrong on this one: political scientist Susan Pharr wrote a book about Japanese politics a few years ago called "Losing Face", putting quite a lot of weight on this notion.


I think a lot of political assumptions here rest on the same basis. The notion that Blair should be allowed to get certain reforms through before he goes because they are his legacy, for instance. Going along with this is simply giving face in the classical oriental manner.


Nguyen's brother also a convicted trafficker

Aussie court suppressed fact that he was a drug runner and given jail term for savage attack on teen

SYDNEY - THE brother of an Australian drug courier hanged in Singapore is a convicted drug trafficker and had been sentenced to jail for a savage samurai sword attack, but details of the case were suppressed due to fear that they could jeopardise clemency appeals.

KHOA'S CRIMINAL BACKGROUND was not publicised in Australia, in order to avoid jeopardising his twin brother's plea for clemency in Singapore. -- EPA

The Australian reported yesterday that Nguyen Tuong Van's brother, Nguyen Khoa Dang, in 1998 repeatedly slashed a teenager with a samurai sword, seriously wounding the 17-year-old's arm, buttock, ankle and left knee.

He was sentenced to three years in jail for the attack, which resulted in the victim requiring plastic surgery.

But County Court judge Meryl Sexton suspended the jail term because Khoa's 'personal situation...(had) become so traumatic because of (his) brother's situation', the newspaper reported.

The judge ordered that the sentence be suspended partly because his twin brother was awaiting execution in Singapore.

She also banned publication of case details while Australian officials repeatedly appealed to Singapore not to hang Nguyen, said The Australian.

Details of Khoa's conviction could be published yesterday for the first time after Judge Sexton lifted a publication restriction imposed to avoid jeopardising Ngu- yen's plea for clemency.

Khoa faced court in June last year, where he pleaded guilty to riotous assembly and recklessly causing serious injury.

In December 1998, Khoa was involved in a brawl between Asian and Islander youths in a park in the northern Melbourne suburb of Reservoir.

The prosecution alleged that Khoa armed himself with a samurai sword and struck Glen Kohu repeatedly, causing him serious injury.

The Australian reported Judge Sexton as saying that Kohu was confined to a wheelchair after the attack, forced to leave school and had since struggled to stay employed.

The trial took more than four years to reach the county court, partly because of concerns about the effect it would have on the Singapore trial of Nguyen, who was arrested in December 2002, according to The Australian.

In April 2003, Judge Sexton agreed to adjourn the case because of Nguyen's trial in Singapore.

'Amongst the reasons for my doing so which I can refer to was the effect on you of having your twin brother awaiting trial in Singapore for a capital offence,' The Australian quoted her as saying.

Khoa is a convicted drug trafficker.

He had also previously served time for drug-trafficking offences and was released from prison in July 2002.

Nguyen claimed in his trial that he had been trying to smuggle heroin to pay for his brother's mounting legal bills, partly incurred by the court case that followed Khoa's involvement in the brawl.

The court heard that Khoa, now 25, left home against his mother's wishes, abused drugs and alcohol and was a frequent customer of Melbourne's Crown casino.

Nguyen's arrest had resulted in 'an increase in (the) level of (Khoa's) maturity' but he had relapsed into heroin use in 2003, possibly as a result of his brother's arrest in Singapore, The Australian quoted Judge Sexton as saying.

Khoa was in Singapore last week for the execution of his brother.

Nguyen's family left last night for Australia with his body.

Mr Lex Lasry, who has been the family spokesman, addressed the media although the family members kept mum at Changi Airport yesterday evening.

Asked about Khoa's criminal record, Mr Lasry said he did not know about it and dismissed it as irrelevant.

'I don't have a view about it,' he said.

'I've got some views about Khoa and where he's going from here and I don't want to say anything about that.'

Eric von Schonberg

Something has to be done about the arrogance of the Singaporean authoritarian government. Unfortunately, Australia is not a very strong country, and it’s leader seem clearly lacking in courage and forcefulness.

If a citizen of a powerful country is ever on death row in Singapore, I’d like to see the leader of that powerful country tell the Singaporean government unequivocally that if they carry out the execution, it will be treated as an act of war.

Then, if they were to go ahead and executed him anyway, I’d like to see two cruise missles launched taking out both the President and the Prime Minister of Singapore, followed by a warning to whomever replaces the eliminated leaders that another execution of one of their citizen will result in Singapore’s sovernty being completely revoked.

One can argue that Singapore has a sovereign right to execute drug smugglers, even when there are mitigating circumstances. In fact, one could even argue that Singapore has the sovereign right to execute those who chew gum. But, history has shown that a county’s sovereign rights only go so far as that country’s power. Throughout history, one country has constanty had its sovernty revoked by another. Furthermore, Nietzsche has asserted that there is no absolute good or evil, adn ultimately it’s power that determines what is right.

It’s time for Singapore’s sovernty to be revoked, and for some powerful country to plunder it. When that happens, losing face will be low on the their list of concerns.
Eric von Schonberg


Well Eric, this is not the first time Singapore stood up against much bigger and powerful country. Singapore stood up against President Bill Clinton couple years ago for canning US teenager for vandalism. I think few countries would go beyond just making some noise in the face of the mightly US.
Even China freed the pilots without trial and return the US spy plane that crashed onto its coast while illegally spying on China!!
In any case, you have to give admiration to Singapore for its guts to upholding its laws (that were based largely on Commonwealth colonial system).

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