Unhappy anniversary: The Kho Jabing execution

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On 20 May 2016 the Singapore Police Force announced that Kho Jabing had been executed.

Every time the execution comes up for discussion we see the same points being raised;

What about his victim Cao Ruyin?

Jabing knew the law so he deserves to die.

The death penalty keeps us safe.


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Death Penalty Information Center. Data for the United States shows that regions with the highest execution rates also have the highest murder rates. So much for the deterrent. Source

Of course other issues are raised as well but I don’t want to spend all morning rehashing each of them.

Nor have I tried to cover every aspect of the death of Cao Ruyin, but rather I seek to draw attention to some points that are often (if not always) overlooked, misunderstood, or both.

Unorthodox murder?

One comment made on Facebook this morning was that the method used by Jabing Kho to kill Cao Ruyin was ‘unorthodox’.

This raises the question; Is there any form of murder that is orthodox?

Isn’t every murder ‘unorthodox’, regardless of whether it is committed with a tree branch, pushing a victim off a tall building, over a cliff, into the path of an oncoming train, stabbing them, shooting them, poisoning them?

I am at a loss to identify any ‘orthodox’ form of murder.

The closest thing that comes to mind is euthanasia, yet as this is the wish of the suffering patient, it does not fit the definition of murder, which is killing someone against their will.

Shortcomings of the death penalty

If all forms of murder are unorthodox, then what does that say about the death penalty? Many studies show that despite claims to the contrary, it has no real benefit to society as a deterrent (as the graphic above illustrates), whilst it does inadvertently teach both young and old that, actually, it is ok to kill fellow human beings.

Another recurring problem with the death penalty is the long list of wrongly executed people who were later found to be innocent via DNA or other evidence that was not available during their trials. Compensating a wrongly executed person is not possible.

Some say the death penalty is ‘justice’, yet it does not restore Cao Ruyin’s life.

Some say it is fair punishment, yet the executed murderer is thereby liberated from a lifetime of guilt and remorse for the murder, instead simply killed by the same society claiming that killing is wrong.

Details of the fatal robbery

Looking at Cao Ruyin’s murder, there is also a tendency to oversimplify the case, and ignore the details. Details which are very significant.

Details such as the fact that Jabing’s colleague Galing Anak Kujat was also beating Cao Ruyin with an improvised knuckle-duster he had made by wrapping his belt around his hand, leaving the big metal buckle exposed like the head of a hammer.

Is it possible that Galing Anak Kujat struck the fatal blow with his improvised knuckle-duster? Who knows? His sentence is 18 years in prison, not the death penalty. Is that justice?

Furthermore Galing Anak Kujat and Jabing had been drinking Narcissus Ginseng Wine Tonic before the robbery (their intent was to rob, not to kill). This wine contained methanol that can cause “visual disturbances, nausea, abdominal and muscle pain, dizziness, seizures and coma” according to Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). Soon after the incident the AVA had the wine banned from the market for human consumption.

After drinking such a hazardous brew, were either Jabing or Galing aware of their own actions? Did the methanol in the Narcissus Ginseng Wine Tonic impair their judgement?

it is a pity that such a drink was allowed on the market to begin with.

Uniquely Singaporean?

Lastly, current public debate questions the appropriateness of foreign entities’  influence on Singapore’s domestic issues.

Yet, death by hanging is a punishment Singapore inherited from a pretty big foreign entity; the United Kingdom.

However, the UK banned the death penalty in 1965.

By the end of 2015, a total of 102 countries have banned the death penalty.

Although I don’t always agree with Pope Francis, as a man of good will I cannot agree with him more when he says;

“All Christians and men of good will are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom.”


Note: This post is essentially based on a comment I left for this Facebook post



3 thoughts on “Unhappy anniversary: The Kho Jabing execution

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