Brit public schoolboy breaks silence over terror of impending 24 lashes sentence
A former public schoolboy jailed for 20 years as punishment for drugs offences in Singapore has revealed he’s terrified of receiving the 24 lashes issued by a judge.
Ex-club DJ Ye Ming Yuen, who went to £37,000-a-year Westminster School, will be flogged 24 times with a 4ft-long rattan cane while partially naked and tied to a large wooden trestle.
The 29-year-old, from London, faces the punishment – called "barbaric" by his family – after he was convicted of seven drugs offences, including supplying cannabis and crystal meth to his friends, in the former British colony.
“Of course I’m scared,” Yuen told the Mail . “I’ve heard so many horror stories from fellow inmates who’ve been caned, of scars on them, of canes breaking during the punishment and having to be replaced and how, after ever few strokes, the caner is replaced to ensure each stroke is of the same intensity.
“I just pray I don’t faint half-way through because I’ll have to return to finish my punishment later.
“I know the skin usually tears after three strokes and that it will be very painful,” he added.
The case of London-born Yuen, who was originally facing a possible death sentence, has sparked a row between Singapore and the UK and prompted Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene.
British officials made clear they "strongly oppose the use of corporal punishment", and Mr Hunt raised the case with Singapore’s foreign affairs minister Vivian Balakrishnan during a visit last week.
Human rights groups opposed to caning say it breaches the UN Convention Against Torture.
Yuen was arrested in August 2016 and again in February last year, and is being held at Changi prison.
He was originally facing a charge that carries a possible death sentence, but it was dropped because the drugs weighed less than 500g.
Yuen, who moved to Singapore in 2007, was sentenced to 20 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane – the maximum allowed under Singaporean law.
His family, who live in the UK, have begged officials to grant him clemency, and his appeal for a reduced sentence of eight-and-a-half years and 15 strokes of the cane was denied.
In his appeal, he described himself as being "misled" in his youth and becoming an addict while "surrounded by drugs".
His father Alex, 70, told the Times that he was too harsh with his son when he was a boy, adding: "He had a troubled life.
"I did not not how to nurture him.”
He added: "My father caned me, so when he was young I caned him."
The businessman said his son’s case is a miscarriage of justice because the court did not hear mitigating circumstances – including being at risk of gangland reprisal for identifying his supplier – before he was sentenced.
He claims his son got into drug dealing while working as a DJ to do a favour for his friends.
Yuen’s younger sister, a 28-year-old development manager, told the Daily Mail: "Without warning, the prison guards knocked on his cell to impose his caning sentence in early December.
"Ming exclaimed it was against his human rights. After hearing this, they did not proceed with the punishment.
"The prison guards went to get him again two weeks later. Ming repeated the same explanation, and again the caning did not proceed.
"The authorities do not give advance warning of caning which is mentally torturous. It could happen any day."
Yuen’s family said he only has a bamboo mat in his cell and he is forced to spend 22 hours inside the room every day.
They claim he is allowed just two visits from family per month.
Yuen is the son of a marketing consultant from China and a Singapore-born marketing executive, it was reported.
He attended Dulwich Prep School in south London and then Westminster School, later moving to Singapore and becoming a top club DJ.
Yuen’s father said his son fled to Singapore after the police in London found out the young man was making fake IDs for his school friends.
He said that led to a rift and he didn’t speak to his son until he was arrested.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “Our consular staff have been assisting a British man and his family since his arrest in Singapore in 2016.
"We strongly oppose the use of corporal punishment, such as caning, in all cases.
"The Foreign Secretary personally raised this with the Singaporean Minister for Foreign Affairs earlier this month.”
Foreign Office travel advice
In its travel advice for Singapore, the Foreign Office warns: "Penalties for drug offences are severe and can include the death penalty.
"Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment, corporal punishment (caning) or the death penalty."
It adds: "Trafficking is defined by possession of drugs above a certain amount (500g in the case of cannabis)."
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