Virgin Group founder and British Tycoon Richard Branson has voiced his support for the halt of death penalty for drug offenses in Singapore. Branson urged Singaporean authorities to review the case of Tangaraju Suppiah, a man who is about to be hanged over one kilogram of cannabis. He argued that “Tangaraju was actually not anywhere near these drugs at the time of his arrest” and that his case relied on circumstantial evidence. Branson added that killing those who are at the lowest rungs of the illicit drug supply chain does little to curb the international drug trade, which is worth hundreds of billions per year. Singapore has some of the world’s most severe anti-narcotics laws and advocates capital punishment as an effective deterrent against trafficking. However, Branson and human rights groups have been putting pressure on the city-state to abolish the death penalty. In Thailand, cannabis has already been decriminalized, and in other countries too, cannabis laws are becoming more relaxed. Tangaraju’s family also pleaded for clemency and a retrial. Singapore resumed executions in March 2022, after a hiatus of more than two years. In the short time since then, it has executed several individuals, including Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, whose mental disability caused an international outcry. Branson and rights groups have claimed that Tangaraju never handled the drugs himself and that the evidence against him is weak. The impending execution is a glaring alarm bell that Singapore should rethink its stance on drug offenses. Rather than executing people for drug offenses, the city-state should embrace alternative drug policies and move away from the death penalty. It’s high time that Singapore joins the global movement to reform drug laws and abolish the death penalty for drug offenses.
As a disclaimer, the opinions expressed in this article don’t reflect those of High Thailand.