Judicial caning in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei provides a detailed history of caning with the Rattan of male offenders in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, three adjacent and closely linked members of the Commonwealth of Nations in South-East Asia.
Below are extracts:
(to facilitate greater flexibility)."
In Singapore, for adult men it is 1.2 metres (4 feet) long, and 1.3cm (half an inch) in diameter (Prison Regulations 132(2)).
The Malaysian cane is very slightly smaller, at 1.09m long and 1.25cm thick.
OFFENCES FOR WHICH CANING IS IMPOSED (see Table)
These are wide-ranging, particularly in Singapore. There are dozens of offences for which a man might be given the cane -- from serious violent crimes to some non-violent offences that might seem relatively minor in the West but are regarded as serious in Singapore, a highly authoritarian state where the importation and sale of chewing gum is an offence (though not a caneable one) and where people can be fined significant sums for dropping litter, smoking in public places, or failing to flush a public toilet after use.
Malaysia is markedly less authoritarian at that trivial level, but its attitudes towards more serious crime and the use of corporal punishment are very similar. In particular, drugs offences and sexual offences frequently attract very heavy caning sentences in all three countries.
THE IMMEDIATE PHYSICAL EFFECTS
Eyewitnesses and others have reported on the severity of the canings:
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE EXPERIENCE BY MEN WHO HAVE BEEN CANED
It is the clear intention of the authorities that the caning be as painful as possible, and, judging from the descriptions of men who have personally experienced it, this aim is achieved.
Neveille Tan, now a pastor in his sixties, received a total of 30 strokes on three occasions in 1958, 1959 and 1966 in Changi Prison. In his memoirs "Iron Man" he described the excruciating pain of a thick cane landing forcefully on soft flesh:
Later in the book he describes the time when he was awarded 12 strokes for assaulting another inmate:
Further descriptions, from more recent times, are equally graphic:
Malaysian judicial canings have provoked very similar first-person descriptions. Aaron Cohen recalled his caning:
Another lively account of being flogged in a Malaysian prison is to be found in Robert Symes's 1991 article in Penthouse. Symes received six strokes in 1982 for drug-trafficking.
Once the final stroke is delivered, the prisoner is unbuckled from the trestle and given medical treatment:
"Alex", who received three strokes for vandalism in November 1994, wrote:
He said that the blood just wet his shorts but there was not excessive bleeding.
After he is unshackled and treated, the prisoner is taken back to his cell to recover.
"Peter" recalled that after 10 strokes, he was unable to walk without help from the warder: "As I was being led out of the caning compound, I caught a glimpse of the used canes. They were split and bloody. They even had pieces of skin stuck on them. Some were probably mine".
Some prisoners in Singapore are taken to the prison hospital after their caning. In Malaysia this appears to be routine for all caned prisoners.
AFTER EFFECTS: THE HEALING OF THE WOUNDS
The following picture was on display at the Johor Baru prison exhibition:
This, too, was probably taken relatively shortly after these prisoners were caned. It is interesting to note how different the wounds can be from one case to another, even allowing for different numbers of strokes.
The wounds of caning take some weeks to heal.
Here are some descriptions of the after-effects by men who have been caned.
Caning as described above will produce permanent scars, according to several reports.
In an NBC documentary shown in 1994, a former prisoner was shown raising his sarong and exposing his bottom to the camera - the scars of his caning were clearly visible.
After the 1974 news conference, one Singapore paper took up the issue of scarring in an editorial, suggesting that "[...] marking a criminal for life -- even on a spot not immediately visible to others -- smacks of barbaric medievalism". The editorial also criticised the whole tone of the Prisons Director's press conference. (Clearly the local newspapers were less rigidly controlled by the regime in 1974 than they are now: even this muted degree of criticism is never found in the Singapore press today.)
However, it is not certain that the marks last forever in cases where relatively few strokes were administered.
The following photograph of 20-year-old Dickson Tan's bottom was taken just one year after his 8-stroke caning:
"Dickson Tan, who was caned for helping an illegal money lender, displays his bruises for the camera in Singapore March 27, 2008. Tan is suing the Singapore government for around S$3 million (USD 2.2 million) in damages for mistakenly caning him three more strokes than he was sentenced to, court documents showed. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash"
Despite what the Reuters caption says, we see no bruises here, only weals. Any bruises had already disappeared. In fact this looks at first glance just like an ordinary schoolboy caning, until we remember that it is 12 months after the event. Even so, it is not obvious that this relatively moderate scarring is going to be there for life.
HUMILIATION AND DETERRENCE
Judicial caning is clearly intended to be a humiliating experience. Former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew, founding father of modern Singapore, introducing mandatory caning for vandalism in 1966, told Parliament:
In fact, the severity and humiliation of the punishment are widely publicised: compulsory prison visits for juvenile delinquents include viewing what newspapers have described as a film of the execution of the punishment (though it is not known whether such a film really exists for Singapore) as well as a real-life demonstration by a warder on a dummy. The films of Malaysian canings were evidently made by the authorities with a similar aim in mind.
One newspaper article stated in 1974: "In the Singapore context, caning is the most dreaded form of punishment. If proof be needed, I need only recall the very many instances when young and middle-aged offenders, under caning orders, begged the Appeal Court in vain to suspend them and give longer prison terms instead. (But) until Parliament changes the law, there is nothing that can be done".
There is, indeed, little sympathy expressed towards those being caned. A writer from the National University of Singapore defended the punishment:
Although the extensive use of corporal punishment in Singapore is a policy associated with Lee Kwan Yew and his ruling People's Action Party, it is not a policy on which the PAP has a monopoly. A spokesman for the opposition Singapore Democratic Alliance, Edmund Ng, has said: "For criminals, caning serves as a deterrent [...] I would not change a winning formula" (The New Paper, 13 April 2006).
The other opposition party represented in Parliament, the Workers' Party, while hostile to very long terms of imprisonment and mandatory sentences, also does not oppose JCP, at any rate for crimes of violence.
In Malaysia, though, there is more opposition from academics, human rights activists and lawyers. In particular the country's Bar Council, representing lawyers, unanimously passed a resolution in 2007 described whipping as cruel, inhumane and degrading, and called for its abolition, especially for illegal immigrants.
However, there is no sign that the present government shares this view.
SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA
Note: when Malaysian newspapers report that someone is to be "whipped three times", it just means three strokes of the cane on a single occasion. In former British times, this would have meant three different caning sessions (in the 19th century, some UK legislation stipulated that an offender might be "once, twice or thrice privately whipped", meaning an unspecified number of strokes on each of up to three separate occasions), but this usage has been lost sight of.
Modus operandi: In Singapore and Brunei the culprit must bend over for his caning, with his feet together. In Malaysia he stands upright at the frame with his legs apart.
Implements: The Malaysian cane is marginally smaller than the Singaporean one. This does not seem to make any discernible difference, if first-person accounts from the two jurisdictions are compared. Also, Malaysia uses a smaller cane for white-collar offenders -- those convicted of non-violent financial crimes such as embezzlement. There are no reports of any such distinction being made in Singapore.