Yong Vui Kong is a death row inmate in Singapore. He was arrested at age 19 with 47.27g of heroin, convicted of trafficking and sentenced under the Mandatory Death Penalty. His final appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 4 April 2011. He can now only plead for clemency from the President (acting on the advice of the Cabinet).
If the President does not grant clemency to Vui Kong, these will be the last 12 letters he will ever write.
The following is the first:
很谢谢你的信，也很谢谢大家给我一个平台，借助大家的力量说出我心中的故事，今天是 第一封的回信，也希望透过这里让大家知道我在监狱里的日子是个怎样的生活。 首先，我想介绍自己。
我叫杨伟光，2011年初我在监狱里庆祝我的23岁生日，今年的庆生 我不孤单，有很多朋友也在监狱外替我庆祝。 为什么我会在监狱里？因为我帮了一个人，把毒品运进新加坡这个法治国。在我19岁的时 候就已经被捉进监牢，至今都已好几年了。我是个死囚，本来应该很早就已经离开人世。但很多人都在帮助我，以至我可以活到现在，如果没有大家，我想我早就已经离开这世界了。
我妈妈不知道我被判死刑，我告诉她我会到很远的地方去修行，要她别担心我。。。 她相信了。 好，现在我来告诉大家我在监狱里的生活。
每天凌晨4点钟左右，我就会起床，我床边没有闹钟，因为我不需要它，这已经成为我一直以来的习惯，这几年来我都是这样没有改变。而且我这样的准时，被监狱里的长官看到了，他们透过监控电视知道我是个早起的鸟儿。 刷洗好，我头朝地藏王菩萨，开始我的早课诵经到早上7点钟，然后我就会静坐一直到9点钟，开始深思生命的奥妙，可能会有人认为我是在等时间过，但在我心目中，我认为与其让时间白白流走，倒不如我好好的利用它。 9点钟的早餐，都与朋友不同；狱官们都知道，他们都会端上全麦素食早餐给我。吃素已经是我生命的另外一种习惯，吃素的好只可以自己体验，我告诉你好你也未必认为是好，不过我还是鼓励很多人吃素。 之前知道自己离死不远时，我一直在哭，因为我很害怕；但是每个星期出现在监狱里开导我的法师，让我不再害怕死亡。 年头，有一个朋友他上路了，上路前，我给他诵经，他平静地离开了。 直到死的那一天，我要好好利用我的生命 –– 劝导更多人不要选择毒品。
几年来，我和我的哥哥运良的关系改善了很多。我们以前没有什么事情是不争吵的，但现 在我俩兄弟的感情，真的变得很好。如果没有哥哥的帮忙，我想这封信是不可能传到你的手里，我很感谢他，每个拜一都出现在这里陪伴我聊天、听我讲佛理。 可是还有多少个“拜一”呢？ 以前，我的长期叛逆让哥哥们都不开心，后来的180度转变让哥哥放心了很多；我想，这是我现在可以做到的事情。
The First Letter: Prison Life
Thank you for your letter, and thank you for giving me a platform and the strength to tell my story. This is my first letter. I hope to let everyone know what my life is like in prison. First, let me introduce myself.
My name is Yong Vui Kong. In early 2011, I celebrated my 23rd birthday in prison. I wasn’t alone during my birthday. Lots of friends on the outside were also celebrating with me. Why am I in jail? It’s because I helped traffic drugs into Singapore. I was caught when I was 19. It’s been a few years now. I am a death row inmate, and by right, I should have been dead long ago. But a lot of people have been helping me, and that’s why I’m still alive today. If it wasn’t for all these people, I think I’d have left this world long ago.
My mother doesn’t know I’ve been sentenced to death. I’ve told her I’ll be going to a far away place to seek enlightenment. I told her not to worry about me. She believed me. Let me now tell you about my life inside here.
I get up at around 4 every morning. I don’t have an alarm clock because I don’t need one. I’ve gotten used to this routine, and it’s not changed these past few years. Even the prison wardens know I am an early riser. They see me getting up each morning via the CCTV inside my cell. After washing up and brushing my teeth, I’ll spend time studying the scriptures until 7am. After that, I’ll meditate quietly until 9. Some people might think I’m just trying to kill time, but in my heart, I believe it’s better to make full use of my time than to just let it slip away. At 9, I have breakfast. I don’t eat the same things as the rest of the inmates. Even the wardens know this and will only deliver vegetarian meals to me. Vegetarianism has become a habit for me. The benefits of vegetarianism are something you have to experience yourself. I can tell you it’s a good thing, but you might not believe me. I encourage everyone to give vegetarianism a try. In the past, when I knew I was going to die soon, I couldn’t stop crying because I was scared. But the Buddhist priest who visits me every week has taught me not to fear death.
Earlier this year, a friend inside left us. Before he left, I chanted for him. He left peacefully. Until I die, I’ll use my time wisely to counsel people and tell them not to choose drugs.
Over the past few years, my relationship with my older brother, Yun Leong, has improved a great deal. We used to fight over all kinds of things. But now, our relationship is much improved. If not for his help, you wouldn’t be reading this letter now. I am really grateful to him. He visits me every Monday. We chit chat and he listens to me talk about Buddhism. How many more Mondays will we have?
In the past, my rebelliousness made my brothers very unhappy. Now that I’m a changed person, my brothers feel much better. I think that’s the least I can do. Actually, I’m doing very well in prison. The wardens show me a lot of respect. Whenever my brother visits, they’d unshackle me and we’d bow to each other. My brother tells me they hold me in high regard. I am humbled to know that. In my spare time, I study the scriptures.
I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to learn everything. I don’t even think there are enough hours in a day for me to study. A lot of people think that it must be tortuous for me to spend an extended time in prison, but I feel good because I can make full use of the time to learn. I feel very fulfilled. I like to chant. But because of the strict rules inside prison, I can’t use normal meditation beads. That’s because they’re afraid I’ll sharpen the crystal beads and use them to kill myself.
My priest is very thoughtful. He used flour to make little beads, strung them up and gave them to me. I use them when I chant.
Suicide? I’ve never thought of it. Life is to be cherished, not squandered.
Yetian, thank you. I’ll stop here today. Amitaba.
16 April 2011
To read more of Vui Kong’s letters, click here.